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-For Barbara

The Decadence of
Industrial Democracies
Disbelief and Discredit, Volume 1
Bernard Stiegler
Translated by Daniel Ross
and Suzanne Arnold

J..o l \
First published in French as Mecniance et Discredit, tome 1: La decadence des
democraties industrielles Editions Galilee, 2004
This English edition Polity Press, 2011
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1 Decadence 1
2 Belief and Politics 36
3 The Otium of the People 94
4 Wanting tb Believe 131
Notes and References 163
Index 184
They have admired things that are hardly ever admired now, have
seen truths living that are now nearly dead, have in fact speculated
on values whose decline or collapse is as clear, as manifest, and as
ruinous to their hopes and beliefs as the decline or collapse of the
securities and c u r r e n c ~ e s which they, and everyone else, once
thought were unshakeable values.
They have witnessed the ruin of their former faith in spirit, 'a
faith that was the foundation and, in a way, the postulate of
their life.
They had faith in spirit, but what spirit? ... what did they mean
by this word?
... a world transformed by spirit [esprit] no longer presents to
the mind [esprit] the same perspectives and directions as before; it
poses entirely new problems and countless enigmas.
Paul Valery
My wound existed before me; I was born to incarnate it.
Joe Bousquet
And the Obligations it Creates for Us
All these values, rising and falling, constitute the great stock market
of human affairs. Among them, the unfortunate value of spirit has
not ceased to fall.
Paul Valery
There are those who find peace only ,through carelessness [incurie]
in relation to all things.
Jacques Benigne Bossuet
1. The political decadence of democracies is a crisis
of the industrial model
At the time of the first genuinely European election in History, on
13 June 2004, there was a sudden aggravation of the political
decadence that we, the French, had initially and then daily endured
as a national reality since 21 April 2002, although we knew that
it was eating away at other industrial democracies too. This same
aggravation brought the ordeal to its true level: to the point where
we must become capable of thinking of something other than
limits [frontieres], and of gathering our forces [battre Ia campagne]
in order to project ourselves into the invention of a new process -
that of a supranational psychic and collective individuation.
We know from experience - and we were painfully reminded
of this in 1992, the year Sarajevo was martyred, a city that had
already become tragically historic on 28 June 1914, that point of
2 Decadence
departure that eventually led Valery to write The Crisis of Spirit,
in which he declared the mortality of civilization. Some years
later, Husserl published The Crisis of European which
he called for a large-scale return to the question of Europe, to
the history and geography of the knowledge woven within it,
which, since 1914, had become lost
- we know then, in advance,
that Europe is also the level at which one can expect the,worst,
at the very moment when one believes it possible to seek out
the best. Concerning borders [frontieres], in Europe, we tell our-
selves that anything could happen, as if the suppression of
barriers from one side must be paid for by the raising of walls
on the other side. With its past, full of spirit but haunted by
phantoms, with its historical and geographical indefiniteness,
and the incomparable quality of life of this 'petit cap', of this
sweet land that, as a patchwork of 'petites differences', on occa-
sion secretes such bitterness, could Europe yet again become a
Pandora's Box?
Without wishing to be precipitously overdramatic, I pose this
question because it brings us back to our common responsibility
to ourselves, as Europeans, whoever we may be - at the moment
when one feels that this possibility of the worst has become the
only possible horizon of something better. Europe is a chance, and
first of all a chance to avoid the worst, the worst that it could still
become, in these times of historical precipitation, of extreme
uncertainty, and of generalized changeability. One could say, as I
did myself, that what took place in France on 21 April was a
catastrophe- even if it was only, after all, a kind of quantification
and, in some way, objectification of political decadence that cer-
tainly did not wait for this election to manifest itself, and which
finds its sources in the hidden vices of democracy. Since it was
the outcome of a vote and not an opinion poll, however, this
quantification did have performative value. And to this extent. it
also constituted what might be called an historic date: if it is true
that this electoral result contained nothing unexpected (it was
foreshadowed in the municipal elections of 1983, and in the
European elections of 1984), the success of the extreme right in
the second round of the French presidential elections was an his-
toric fact, where democracy encountered the limit revealing its
extreme weakness.
Decadence 3
I still believe that this encounter with History was a cata-
strophe, but my understanding of this word must be clarified
(and I'll come back to this in the next volume of La technique
et le temps, and in De Ia misere symbolique 2. La catastrophe
du sensible). As a general rule, one calls catastrophic an event
engendering chain reactions overturning a state of things that
until then was close to an equilibrium stabilizing an order. A
catastrophe is also, however, and first of all, a strophe: the catas-
trophe is the final episode of a history, the moment of a denoue-
ment. Now, this is a matter of human History itself (in this
case, that of the women and men of France), and not one of
those stories through which men and women talk about them-
selves, and recolliit and imagine a common history. Consequently,
after this catastrophe, insofar as it is a cata-strophe, and if this is
always in fact a matter of a catastrophe or, more precisely, of a
moment inscribed within a catastrophic process, which we must
understand as a process through which one history exhausts itself
by undoing itself, French and European human History must
nevertheless continue - as a History of France, or as some other
History, which would pass through France, from out of France,
but also, perhaps, from elsewhere, and from out of elsewhere. The
cata-strophe must be the end of a history that would never-
theless have been a morsel of History, and takes place at the
beginning of another history, connected to it in a way that is
more or less painful, and pursuing History by inscribing within it
a bifurcation.
The question then becomes to know, first of all, of which history
this catastrophe would be the denouement.
It is in order to respond to this question, and to the question
of the possibility, and the necessity, of connecting to - that is,
beginning- another history, that in this work I attempt to describe
some fact$ of a catastrophic nature, of which 21 April would be
only one salient performative moment, and which are themselves
inscribed in a context of generalized decadence, a decadence which
is not only French, nor even European, but certainly global and,
especially, industrial. Beyond all the talk, whether well-informed
or naiVe, illuminating or, on the contrary, intended to produce
smokescreens, most of the time juridicaV today's question remains
the fact that an industrial model of production and consumption
4 Decadence
has failed, and this question henceforth becomes a matter of reso-
lutely elaborating a critique.
Such a critique (that must call on the resources of what I have
elsewhere called a new critique, in the sense of a philosophical
leap, an exit from the dogmatic slumbers that have accumulated
in the twentieth century in philosophy, but also in science) would
not be a denunciation: it must be an-analysis .of the limits of the
object of critique, and the elaboration of a renewed idea of this
The necessity of such a critique imposes itself at a crucial stage
- at a crossroads where irreversible decisions have to be taken.
This failure appears at the moment, and even as the moment,
when the industrial model has become that of a structurally cul-
tural capitalism. And this transformation, of which the United
States of America would be the crucible, leads, in the context of
upheavals [bouleversements] induced by digital technologies, to
that epoch of modern democracy that I have characterized as
2. The American construction of cultural capitalism
and European servility
It is in the first place a matter of giving a critique of the classical
industrial model that was elaborated in North America long before
the hyper-industrial capitalist epoch. And yet, q.nd principally to
overcome what Marx called its 'contradictions', this classical
model soon places cultural control at the heart of the process
through which it pursues its development. This has not been gen-
erally understood by twentieth-century analysts of capitalism
(with the possible exception of Gramsci and certainly of Adorno),
and it has been made especially unthinkable, after 1968, by
the sociological fable of the 'leisure society', also called 'post-
industrial society'.
In the United States, culture became a strategic function of
industrial activity from the beginning of the twentieth century. On
the basis of analogue recording and transmission technologies, a
new kind of industry was conceived, called the 'culture industry';
between the two wars, with radio, and especially after the Second
World War, this evolved into the 'programme' industries (in par-
Decadence 5
ticular, in the form-of television) functionally dedicated to market-
ing and publicity - contrary to European television, which has a
function that is firstly political; in France, privatization, which
seems today to be self-evident, only occurred at the initiative of
Mitterrand, who expected thereby to provide himself,
cheaply, with a 'modern' image. \
With the advent of very advanced control technologies emerg-
ing from digitalization, and converging in a computational system
of globally integrated production and consumption, new cultural,
editing and programming industries then appeared. What is new
is that they are technologically linked by universal digital equiva-
lence (the binary system) to telecommunications systems and to
computers, and, through this, directly articulated with logistical
and production systems (barcodes and credit cards enabling the
tracing of products and consumers), all of which constitutes the
hyper-industrial epoch strictly speaking, dominated by the catego-
" rization of hyper-segmented 'targets' ('surgically' precise market-
ing organizing consumption) and by functioning in real time
(production), through lean production [flux tendus] and just in
time (logistics).
In this context of the upheavals induced by digitalization, often
compared to a 'third industrial revolution' (also called the 'infor-
mation society' or, more recently, the 'knowledge society' - the
digital system permitting, on the side of industrial conception, the
systematic mobilization of all knowledge in the service of innova-
tion) - a process unleashed by the adoption of the TCP-IP stan-
dard, that is, through the creation by the USA of a worldwide
digital network called the Internet - the rest of the 'northern
countries' adapt tcyemselves poorly or well to the 'American
model': the industrial democracies ape it more or less poorly, and
submit themselves to its prescriptions, repeating like a flock of
parrots the ideologemes which these organs of propaganda diffuse
over the planet as so many deceptions and lures [leurres]. The
principal of these consists in claiming that public power is obsolete
and in decline, and in performatively creating political decadence,
while never ceasing to appeal (up to a certain point) to human
rights and international law to legitimate the political poverty
[misere] of nations. This movement is produced in the wake of
the 'conservative revolution' ushered in by Ronald Reagan at the
6 Decadence
beginning of the 1980s (preceded by Margaret Thatcher jn Great
Britain in 1979, and followed by Tony Blair).
Now, at the same time, not doing what it says it will do, and
not saying (to those who still credulously submit to the recom-
mendations of what continues to be called 'governance') what it
does, the American federal government invests massive public
funds in the development of these cultural technologies: billions
of public dollars have been invested for twenty years in informa-
tion technology. American public power thus guides - and with
remarkable lucidity - the global strategy of American power, in
c.onstant cooperation with the business world, but in the end
imposing its vision upon it. In spite of this, the other industrial
countries, reputedly democratic, under the leadership in Europe
of the European Commission, apply without any critical distance
alleged 'best practices', practices consisting in the liquidation
of all thought and all public will, by abandoning all decisions
about the future to 'market forces' - except when it is a matter
of applying the dogma of 'perfect competition'/ that is, the total
execution of market laws. So-called democracies slowly but surely
lose their specificity, that is, also, their legitimacy and their credit,
as well as the forces constituting their historical and cultural
Because in what way is it still a matter of 'dem9cracy'? What
is a demo-cracy that can no longer decide its kratos? And if it is
true that democracy is the power of a demos, then it remains to
be shown that a juxtaposition of consumer niches still constitutes
a demos. In fact, the demos is a process of adoption, as is, in its
turn, but differergly, 'consumer society'. To understand in what
way consumption is a rupture in the relation to citizenship depends,
firstly, on understanding what is pursued through these profoundly
different forms of social organization: a process of adoption.
In the sixth century BCE, Cleisthenes - after Solon had, around
594 BCE, written the Jaw and constituted the demos in law -
created the demes in order to break down the tribes and the clans
of archaic Greece (in 508 BCE): the members of these demes, who
may be foreigners or even slaves, henceforth took on the name of
their deme while adopting the prytanic calendar.
This was a
matter of alleviating the burden upon cities constituted by socio-
ethnic programmes (in Leroi-Gourhan's sense, on which I com-
Decadence 7
mented in Technits and Time, 2: Disorientation
), and which still
haunts what Dodds called the 'Inherited Conglomerate',
that is,
those traditional elements maintained within the new Greek
culture, which is a political culture -that is, from Solon to Pericles
and via Cleisthenes, democratic culture.
As such an adoptive process, the demos tries to resolve ques-
tions, questions which then find themselves replayed in industrial
societies, insofar as these societies find it constantly necessary to
adopt new arrivals in order to fulfil their need for unskilled manual
labour, but also and' above all insofar as these societies require the
adoption of new products. The demos is a regulated adoption
through a law that is itself public, that is, elaborated politically,
such that it poses in principle a difference between right and fact.
This model is maintained. in spite of all the transformations char-
acterizing the history of the Western European process of individu-
ation, up until the end of the nineteenth century. Today, however,
the adoptive process implemented by the United States no longer
remains democratic in this sense: it is consumerist.
3. Adoption, technology and public power
in America
It is in the context of the passage to the hyper-industrial and
structurally cultural era of capitalism, on the way to effective
globalization, where consumerism (completely replacing the social
control in which all culture consists with a behavioural control
conforming instead to the interests of investors) tends to efface
the democratic character of what one continues to call the 'indus-
trial democracies' (referring today more to 'human rights' than to
the citizenship inaugurated by Cleisthenes) - it is in this context
that the American government developed the strategy that was
portrayed by David Rothkopf in the following way:
For the United States, foreign policy must be to win the battle of
the world's information flows, dominating the airwaves as Great
Britain once ruled the seas.
This 'battle of the flows' aims to supply new models, consisting
of technologies of digital behavioural control made possible by
8 Decadence
the convergence of information, telecommunication and audiovi-
sual technologies. What is being gestured towards with such
American declarations (in particular, those advanced by Al Gore
and Bill Clinton concerning the 'information superhighway') is the
same thing that in Europe is called the '_information society', and
this is what engenders all the mirages of the 'new economy'.
The 'battle of the flows' rests on global public access to the
Internet network, but also on the replacement of the analogico-
hertzien audiovisual technical system. This replacement was
announced by the American government on 3 April 1997, when
the FCC
indicated that the closure of the analogue frequency
television broadcast band for US territory would occur in 2006,
to be replaced by a new totally digital audiovisual technical system,
already being installed, and very far from having unfurled all of
its effects, which will be immense. By conjugating the access to
digital telecommunication networks made possible by the TCP-IP
standard, on the one hand, with the digitalization of audiovisual
transmission enabling the digital compression of image and sound
through the MPEG standard, on the other hand - or, in other
words, by organizing at a global level the convergence of telecom-
munications, the audiovisual and information - the United States
is orchestrating, at its own rhythm and according to its own
interests, an immense technical mutation which spells the end, for
the West, of more than a century of analogue information tech-
nologies and communications technologies. The global mnemo-
technical system ,.- which, as will be shown in the next chapter,
constitutes a new stage of the grammatization process lying at the
origin of the West, and which has overdetermined the individua-
tion process in which the West has consisted- has therefore today
become the heart of a planetary technical and industrial system.
This is a fact of which the European public powers are obviously
still unaware, even though the spread of medium- and high-speed
telecommunications, as for example with ADSL and broadband
technology, has already transformed the disc industry, and
will soon transform the entirety of what econoll\ists call the
'editorial function'. Beyond this, however, it is the totality of
industrial activity- reorganized around globally connected digital
networks and machines, and thereby functionally integrating
conception, production, distribution and consumption - that is
Decadence 9
being profoundly altered. And I will show in the following
pages that one of the principal effects of this is that the cultural
question becomes the heart of industrial policy - an issue that
has thus far been profoundly ignored by the European public
This sovereign decision of the FCC is inscribed in the industrial
and technical policies of the American federal government, which
chose to privilege the digital long before the arrival of Bill Clinton
(it is for this reason that the US constantly refused to participate
in the discussions between Europe and Japan at the end of the
1980s about high-definition television standards), and which, far
from leaving the 'invisible hand' of blind markets to their 'laissez
faire' work, instead conforms to the slogan of the Xerox Research
Center, a slogan that one could say is typical of American culture
and power in general:
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
But in the United States, this invention is not merely an affair of
the business world: it is a public strategy, animated and debated
by a public power, which anticipates the future well beyond the
short-term calculations made by markets.
Beyond the position of power held by the United States, the
supremacy of th,e American programme industries - a supremacy
that has been considerably accentuated and enlarged through the
functional integration of digitalization in the passage to hyper-
industrial social models - rests before anything else on the historic
capacity of this country to conjugate a politics of adoption and a
technical politics. As a migrant country, America has always had
to elaborate a public policy of integrating immigrants, and, at the
same time, it has always had to affirm the necessity of adopting
the products of an industrial innovation that is constantly
Adoption and innovation are the two categorical imperatives
directly combined by American society and are .the basis of its
incomparable dynamism. Since the appearance of the industrial
technologies of sound and image that made them possible, the
culture industries have become organs capable of creating identi-
fication processes via behavioural models, behavioural models
10 Decadence
which are themselves incessantly renewed according to the
demands of innovation. I have shown elsewhere (notably in De Ia
misere symbolique 1) that the implementation of these technolo-
gies of the sensible, inaugurating what can be called the age of
industrial aesthetics strictly speaking, also included a reflection on
the consequences of the Freudian theory of libidinal economy for
the economy as such, and, more generally, included 'research on
motivations' enabling their artificial elicitation - it being under-
stood that the libidinal economy is the fundamental mechanism
of all adoption.
In other words, an industrial political economy must be a libidi-
nal economy - the question being, however, to know to what
degree this is not self-destructive, that is, to know the point up
until which it not only preserves and guarantees but intensifies the
existence of what Valery called spiritual economy. I will return to
this point in detail in what follows, and in particular in the second
American federal public policy has therefore never been content
- contrary to what continues to be repeated by European indus-
trialists, politicians and bureaucrats- simply to 'follow the market'.
The enormous American public and private investment into
research and thought in all their forms (science, literature, art,
philosophy) clearly constitutes the preliminary condition for that
audacity which North America has consistently demonstrated.
Beyond this, however, when in 1992, after careful consideration,
America organized and permitted the access of all the countries
of the entire world to the Internet network, this constituted the
most glaring example of the way in which this country conceives
the possibility of transforming its global environment according
to its own vision: by thinking simultaneously about technological
development and about the pursuit of the adoptive process in
which humanity in its totality consists, and which then becomes
a matter of taking planetary control.
4. The motives of European becoming and
of the European constitution
Digitalization is a mutation of the global technical system - and
globalization is before anything else globalization of the industrial
Decadence 11
technical system, 'democratic' or otherwise. Now, each time a
major technological rupture occurs, it is imperative that this
process be accompanied by governments, and other forms of
public power, that want to take part in defining it. And such an
accompaniment can in no way consist in a pure and simple m a n ~
agement of that crisis which always results from a disadjustment
between the mutating technical system and the other social systems
without which it cannot function.
This process constitutes what
I have called an epokhal technological redoubling,
that is, the
suspension, by a technical or technological revolution, of a state
of fact. Far from simply managing the effects of such a suspension,
the public powers must on the contrary be capable of defining the
motives conferring on the individuation process of the technical
system its social and political meaning, that is, its dynamism,
which presupposes its inscription in the psychic and collective
individuation process in which human society consists, and which,
as I return to at length, can only move, can only find the motives
of this movement, on the condition of cultivating singularities
that alone can constitute it as a process of psychic (and psychi-
cally promising, that is, desirable and desiring) individuation. This
is what I call the redoubling of the epokhe, or, again, the doubly
epokhal redoubling.
The evolution of the technical system forms the basis of the
becoming of human societies and itself constitutes an individua-
tion, in the sense defined by Simondon, and which I have devel-
oped further elsewhere. But the becoming [devenir] that this
individuation constitutes is only possible on the condition that it
is transformed into a future [avenir] by its insertion into psychic
and collective individuation. This is what I argued in both The
Fault of Epimetheus and Disorientation. It has sometimes been
said to me, in particular after the publication of Aimer, s'aimer,
nous aimer. Du 11 septembre au 21 avri/,1
that the tone of
my writing has changed, that I have become 'pessimistic', and
that I have, in the end, changed my understanding of the question
of technics and technology. Now, I have always said that the
becoming of the technical system requires, in order to become
the future [devenir l'avenir] of the society in which it is produced,
the doubly epokhal redoubling, which means that, within this
complex process that is psycho-social individuation, the first
epokhe, the first suspension .of established order, is the technical
mutation suspending a dominant state of fact, but equally means
that society must also carry out a second suspension in order to
constitute an epoch properly speaking, which means: in order
to elaborate a new thought that translates into new ways of
life [nouveau modes de vie], and, in other words, that affirms a
new will for the future, establishing a new order - a civilization,
a reinvented civility.
The present work is concerned with examining what prevents
the accomplishing of this doubled redoubling as the invention of
new ways of life. A thought only has meaning if it has the force
of reopening the indetermination of a future. But it can only be a
matter of new ways of life if those. lives are constituted by new
modes of existence: human life is an existence. Now, our current
situation is characterized by the fact that this fails to occur, and
that, in place of the necessary creation of these new modes of
existence, there is substituted an adaptive process of survival, in
which possibilities for existing disappear, being reduced instead
to simple modalities of subsistence. This is what I have called
symbolic misery [ misere symbolique: symbolic misery, poverty, or
immiseration- trans.]. Human beings can without doubt subsist
without existing. I believe, however, that such a subsistence is
not sustainable: it becomes, rapidly, psychically and socially
unbearable, because it leads inexorably to the liquidation of
primordial narcissism. And this liquidation in turn leads to the
liquidation of the law. That is, to the liquidation of what c o n s t i ~
tutesthe condition of a demos: a difference between fact and right.
This is the meaning of the crime carried out by Richard Durn,
assassin of the representatives of the French people - of the
Today Europe, and the industrial democracies generally, fail to
operate this double redoubling, and this fact lies at the heart of
the contemporary political and industrial question. Most political
discourse avoids this fact- the manner of this avoidance stretches
from the denial of the unavoidable reality of the first redoubling
(conservatism, archaic environmentalism) to the denial of the
necessity of the second (neoliberalism), and between the two lies
a strange, stagnant marsh. As for the model installed in the United
States, and which was the reason for its strength, this is now
., --- - -
Decadence 13
exhausted. It is for this reason the United States has been led into
war, however much the accidental motives for this war may be
tied to the apparently unbalanced psychological personalities of
those such as George Bush and Osama bin Laden - and to which
the history of their families is obscurely tied.
One might object at this point that the chronic instability of
technical becoming, which is characteristic of our epoch (this is
what I have called permanent innovation), makes impossible the
stabilization of an epoch, and thus that the redoubling is structur-
ally impossible. I, however, completely disagree. But I do, on the
other hand, believe that such an objection is grounded in real and
unprecedented facts that must be taken into account with great
care: it is necessary to rethink redoubling as requiring an entirely
new thought of what an epoch in fact is, and in particular it must
be thought precisely as a process rather than as a stasis, a process
of individuation putting individuation itself at the heart of its
motives of action, as the prin_cipal motive, constituting the motive
of its thought, what I, after many others, call its reason- its reason
to be, and its reason to become.
Redoubled or not, technological mutation is today pursued
digitally, but also biotechnologically,
and, if nothing happens in
the short term, then European democracies will soon be defini-
tively enslaved, and the entire world disorientated [deboussole].
Such is the true question of a European constitution, for which it
is a matter less, today, of drafting a text- it is completely prema-
ture, given the current situation of immense indigence when it
comes to political thought, to want to define what would amount
to nothing more than mere vocabulary- than of inventing a new
European process of individuation, emancipated from formal
legalism and economism, by elaborating a programme of action
projecting, through the clarity of its intrinsic necessity, its own
motives of action.
Now, the first question to be posed in this regard is the complete
absence of an original European policy in relation to the culture
industries, and, beyond or within such a policy, in relation to
artistic research and scientific research, whether in the human
or in the natural sciences. While American paradigms dominate
the majority of the university programmes of the entire world, a
properly European artistic and cultural life, that is, borne, intended
--- --
14 Decadence
and sustained by European power, is practically non-existent.
In its edition of 2-3 May 2004, the New York Times published
a very ironic and incontestably just article, affirming in its
title that 'A Common Culture (From the USA) Binds Europeans
Ever Closer':
As 10 new countries prepare to enter the European Union on May
1, it is not so much economic weight or political tradition that has
earned them the right to join the regional bloc. Rather, it is a certain
cultural identity forged by Christianity and a cowmon artistic heri-
tage. In m;e crucial sense, then, the lingua franca of this expanded
Europe remains that of Shakespeare, Leonardo, Mozart and other
giants of the past.
Turn to the contemporary arts, however, and a different picture
emerges. Here the union's old and new members alike know sur-
prisingly little about one another's artistic inventiveness today.
Creative life may be flourishing in widely different ways across
Europe, but the most common cultural link across the region now
is a devotion to American popular culture in the form of movies,
television and music.
The. indigence of European political thought induces negligence
[incurie] - this means lack of care and, as such, carelessness,
-in its actors, public or private, economic or politi-
cal, academic or artistic, generally reinforced by the smallness of
their interests, whether patrimonial or moral, corporate, disciplin-
ary, economic or national, through all of which Europe is in the
course of transforming itself into a gigantic museum. Hence, Paris:
global capital of tourism. This museum might well be that of
modern art, since this was born in Europe, and principally in
France, in the nineteenth century - and thus it is already nearly
200 years old. And where this museification is not occurring,
various 'zones' appear instead, territories abandoned by the spiri-
tual economy in Valery's sense, but over-invested by the hyper-
industrial libidinal economy, that is, I argue, an economy that is
self-destructive, and within which, precisely for this reason, resent-
ments accumulate (I am speaking here about industrial and com-
mercial zones, rural and 'technopolitan' development estates, etc.)
- these zones amounting to something like the becoming-suburban
of any region not 'patrimonialized',
Europe thus becomes a land
Decadence 15
without ideas, without courage, and without future - because it
is without desire.
What has not been understood on this old continent is, on the
one hand, that the unity constituting a process of individuation is
first of all a singular cultural sensibility, and, on the other hand,
that this is not a matter of opposing industry to culture in order
to maintain this culture and this industry, as the nineteenth-
century romantics, then the moderns, constituted them. Nor, con-
versely, is it a matter of submitting all spiritual life to the
imperatives of the economy and technological development, and
to value spirit only in relation to these imperatives, as the neolib-
eral ideologues believe. Rather, and to the complete contrary, it is
a matter of the invention of a new order, and the constitution of
a new model of industrial development as well as of cultural prac-
tices (and practices irreducible to mere usages), at the very moment
that culture, or rather the control of culture, has become the heart
of development, but has done so at the cost of a becoming-herdish
which is also a generalized becoming-wild [devenir-inculte], and
which can only lead to political disbelief [mecreance, which could
also be translated as 'mis-belief', but also as 'miscreance', that is,
as bad behaviour - trans.] and discredit.
It is a matter, in other words, of reconstructing a libidinal
economy (a philia), without which no city, or democracy, or indus-
trial economy, or spiritual economy, is possible.
5. Industrial policy must become a cultural
policy of technologies of spirit
In this respect, the policy that has been implemented in France
since 1981 merits particular analysis. If it is true that Fran<;ois
Mitterrand cheaply presented an image of modernity through his
audiovisual policy, then this was particularly true of the way that,
when he privatized part of the national television broadcaster -
creating Canal Plus, but also offering La Cinq to Silvio Berlusconi,
which fortunately turned out to be a fiasco - the president of the
French Republic nevertheless utterly dispensed with any rethink-
ing or re-missioning of the audiovisual public service: he and his
technocratic apparatus believed in neither the necessity nor the
possibility of political action in this domain. It was for them
16 Decadence
simply a matter of the de facto management of the slow and silent
extinction of a model conceived by Charles de Gaulle and Andre
This is how the catastrophe was brought about: the audiovisual
domain is where opinion, the demos, and demagogy are con-
structed, and this is also the domain that is in the course of ruining
what Paul Valery called 'spirit value' [valeur esprit] -by spreading
and generalizing the hyper-synchronization of consumer con-
sciousnesses, which are thus formed into markets, so-called 'audi-
ences', to the detriment of every other vocation. This much is
clear: it was an initiative of the social democrats that enabled
Patrick Le Lay to become the director of the main national televi-
sion channel, even though that kind of 'dirty work' is normally
carried out by right-wing governments. This non-belief of political
power in the political power of public audiovisual missions, but
also more generally in the political responsibilities entailed by the
appearance of technologies of mind and spirit, in other words, this
cynicism, the price of which is that political manipulation which
consists in making political power amenable to the mass media,
all in the name of modernity, in order to get elected or re-elected
(as Tony Blair would do with Rupert Murdoch), this political
non-belief or miscreance automatically engenders discredit, that
is, also, and necessarily, violence, hatred, reactivity (in Nietzsche's
sense), and the worst temptations.
This is far more serious than
the mere 'loss of confidence' that 'observers' of our 'predicament'
constantly comment upon. And yet, as I spow in the next chapter,
it is a certain understanding of confidence o ~ ; trust [confiance] as
an object of possible calculation that contributes to the liquidation
of belief as the experience of the indeterminacy of the future
[avenir], beyond becoming [devenir], the openness of a future
irreducible to calculation, and tnat can only be the object of a will,
that very will that has been renounced by the new unbelievers who
are thereby discredited - and who are legion, far beyond politi-
cians and their immediate servants. Now, trust does not exist
without belief.
Trust, calculated, and reduced to this calculation,
is thus automatically ruined: this is the very principle of the deca-
dence of the industrial democracies.
And what Mitterrand- who so greatly wanted to become a great
man, an historic figure, and a statesman, and who was himself
also a great calculator, perhaps ultimately too great a calculator
not to remain a little man - failed to understand was, on the one
hand, that politics is above all the motivation and organization of
a psychic and collective individuation process, and, on the other
hand, that .in our epoch this process is produced essentially via
information and communication technologies, first of all via tele-
vision, and, today, via the new culture industries, which are the
vehicles of all symbolic exchanges, whether up close or at a dis-
tance. For anybody purporting to propose a politics, it is a matter
of elaborating a critique of this process, in order to promote a
new model, as well as to enunciate its structural limits, paralo-
gisms and antinomies - that is, its duties, rights, obligations,
prohibitions and mysteries.
Renouncing all ambition in this domain as in so many others,
'pragmatic' and brainwashed, socialist reformism - taking over
from Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who created a genuine rupture
with Gaullist public power - installed a state consumerism that
consisted not only in allying itself to the mass media, thereby
alienating itself while also risking a mental alienation of society,
but consisted as well in favouring mass distribution, always in the
name of modernity, in order thereby to gain political benefit from
the pressure exerted on producers to lower prices and flood the
market with products 'as seen on TV', all of which ensures the
distribution of bread and circuses, but destroys town centres,
peripheries and suburbs, as well as social organizations and psychic
organizations (self-image) - not to mention all those extra little
benefits that come with what is called corruption.
Taken to the level of European questions, this political misery,
which has also been the cause of a great economic misery, and
which finds its alibis in the impossibility of ignoring the trans-
formations of the surrounding world, fails to think through
the meaning and the causes of these transformations, and ignores
the fact that psychic and collective individuation is an adoptive
process, the intelligence and robustness of which depends on
the degree of its originality, and on the adhesive force that, as
expression of a singularity, it gives rise to in the form of the
desire to be together that Aristotle called philia - and it is not
possible to understand why this desire must be renounced, other
than because of the weakness of our spirit, that is, also, of our
18 Decadence
libidinal energy, of which spirit is nothing more than the sublime
Now, weakness does not amount to fatality: it is a resistible
fact. Because this spirit is the fruit of an economy: th,is economy
is what must be made into the object of care, of a cura. This care
is called culture. I will show in the course of this work that this
culture is that of a difference between what the Romans called
otium and negotium- and that this difference is not an opposition
but a composition, (\nd that for this reason economic models can
be elaborated from it, even if these always and necessarily extend
beyond any model and all economy, as with the economy of gift
and counter-gift described by Marcel Mauss. And it is for this
reason, equally, that the culture industries are not inevitably
harmful, or worse -' and it is for this same reason that, fiually,
they must also in principle be capable of the best.
Europe - which copies American economic models but fails to
grasp that the cost of turning globalization into a generalized
mimetism would be that it sinks into disaster- has resigned itself
to delegating to the American entertainment and games industry
the destiny of its own culture, that is, the liquidation of its own
culture. Now, this is especially serious when, capitalism becoming
cultural, culture itself becomes the key to all industrial policy -
besides which, it was already the key to all politics whatsoever. It
must be hoped that those European industrialists who are not
blinded by ideology or paralysed by the voracity of their share-
holders know how to themselves, and be concerned
with, posing the right questions, those which guarantee a future
to industry - and where the much-touted reform of casual labour
'[intermittence] could only ever have amounted to rearranging the
deckchairs in a situation in which everyone would nevertheless
remain lost and deceived.
A European industrial politics of the future must understand
technological development as an essentially cultural question, and
must understand the cultural question from out of the question of
tekhne, the Greek name for what we call art. A genuinely European
industrial politics would require a complete rethinking of cultural
politics in relation to everything that has been transformed by the
industrial revolution and by the newest technologies, but also in
relation to the impasses to which the American model has led,
Decadence 19
particularly in this domain. Without such a politics, there will be
neither a European 'constitution' nor a European 'construction'
worthy of the name: the process of adoption, which can only be
effective as the expression of a singularity that it invents to the
degree that it draws itself together [rassemble], a process without
which no European affirmation will ever take place, remaining
instead essentially governed by American power, that is, it will not
produce any singularity, but will on the contrary be reduced to
a regional particularity which will become, from then on, and
this time concretely, the American empire, supported by hyper-
industrial technologies and by the cultural hyper-industries that
they elaborate - until this in turn collapses.
Because this model will itself inevitably .lead to its own collapse:
stretched to its limits, it has become largely entropic and self-
destructive, not to mention, equally and necessarily, hetero-
destructive. More. and more tempted into armed conflict, it must
constantly increase police .powers. Nobody would today believe
that America is the 'land of freedom', and especially not since the
Patriot Act came into force. This is a tragedy for America, the
consequences of which it will have to suffer, but it is also and_
especially a tragedy for us, who follow this development like
sheep, if not like lambs - but even so it is necessary, at this point,
to salute the clairvoyance and courage of the foreign policy of the
French government in relation to the conflict between Iraq and
the United States.
6. The genesis of the American multimedia strategy
During the 1980s, American industry, which had by then surren-
dered a large portion of the market for consumer electronic equip-
ment (to the inqeasing dominance of Japan and Europe), came to
understand that reconquering this market passes through multi-
media, that is, through the simultaneous digitalization of text,
image and sound, a_nd through the deployment of telecommunica-
tions networks totally transforming the way these are broadcast
and communicated. Almost completely dominating the informa-
tion industries, that is, computer technology, the United States
created the conditions for a change which was largely based on
the implementation of new industrial standards, in particular
20 Decadence
norms governing interoperability between networks (TCP-IP,
which is the technical basis of the Internet), as well as norms
for the digital compression of analogue signals (MPEG), that is,
images and sounds, permitting control to be taken of the entire
field of cultural technologies, that is, of editorial systems, audio-
visual broadcast channels, networks and databases, and so on.
Simon Nora and Alain Mine had by 1977 already foreseen this
possibility, when they presented a report commissioned by
President Giscard d'Estaing on the industrial stakes of the evolu-
tion of information and communications technology (ICT) -
which, despite its break with Gaullism, the government nevertheless
hoped to anticipate.
Today, throughout the expansion of the American multi-
media industry, which drives the totality of global technological
development and, with it, the rules and standards governing access
technologies, as well as the standards governing what Jeremy
Rifkin has called relational technologies (even when these stan-
dards have been conceived outside the United States: such is the
adoptive capacity of this nation), it is a matter of controlling new
culture industries, and their production of texts, images, sounds,
hypertexts and hypermedias. The development of these technolo-
gies and industries, constituting a commercial and industrial strat-
egy, as well as a diplomatic and military strategy, in all likelihood
revolves around the future of television, rebaptized as home
The central instrument reconfiguring the family living room of
the supposedly middle-class families who constitute the industrial
demos will soon be, in fact, a computer turned into a super-
television, which will also be an instrument of tele-action and
entertainment, as well as a high-definition channel of a new kind,
enabling the navigation of video and music databases, by using
algorithmic navigation functions to access stocks of 'cultural
As for the mobile phone, which can already capture and
receive images, it is now becoming a new vehicle for advertising.
And the computer, converging with the mobile phone in becoming
WiFi, that is, capable of connecting itself wirelessly practically
anywhere, will more and more turn into a television able to
remotely control domestic and professional processes, as well as
Decadence 21
military, police, scierttific, logistic and consumer processes: this
amounts to the generalization and concretization of the control
society model.
This is why Microsoft (which bought into Thomson Multimedia
in 1998, three years after French Prime Minister Alain Juppe had
declared that this company was not worth more than a symbolic
franc, and that he was ready to sell it for this amount to a Korean
industrial conglomerate, which has, since, undergone serious
financial difficulties and closed several factories in France) has
explicitly aimed since 1997 to control digital television: in that
year, Craig Mundie, vice-president of the global corporation,
declared that the world contained a billion televisions, enabling
just about every consciousness on the planet to be reached, whereas
PCs remain and will remain a mode of access limited merely to a
section of the populations living in the industrial democracies. It
has been known in the United States since at least 1912 that 'trade
follows films' (something that European industrialists and govern-
ments have at times failed to comprehend), and thus, at very
nearly the identical moment that Mundie launched his mission for
a new television system technicallybased on multimedia technol-
ogy, to be created by Microsoft (in the wake of its Windows Media
Player system), Irving Kristol was declaring that the 'missionaries
[of the United States] live in Hollywood'.
It is very much a matter of missions - that is, of spiritual war.
Even if this crusade has, since the illegitimate election of George
W. Bush, been transformed into a 'conventional' war, and one
occurring outside any international legality, the genuine issue for
industrial democracies in general, and for Europe in particular, is
still to construct their own politics and economy of spirit, capable
of opening an era of a new process of individuation: for the
European nations, this means revisiting those pre-individual funds
in which European culture consists, by individuating in accor-
dance with the. specific possibilities of this epoch, namely, in accor-
dance with digital technologies and the new industries they make
possible, but also in accordance with unprecedented practices;
which it is a matter of cultivating, and which must not be confused
in any way with anything that marketing or industrial design
refers to as 'uses'.
22 Decadence
7. The third industrial revolution must be cultural
The programme industries, which have now become inextricably
linked to information and telecommunications technologies (for
example, Radio Skyrock, which systematically integrates, in real
and direct time, mobile phones and web services - and on which
the main advertisers are mobile phone companies
), are today the
key element of economic development and international influence,
as well as the main way i!l which social contacts are maintained.
Now, these industries pose ecological problems just as serious as
those identified at the Rio and Kyoto summits. A global debate
must be organized to investigate without delay the enormous
problems of mental environments that are in disequilibrium and
that create disequilibrium, environments that constitute an indus-
trial development of cognitive, relational and cultural technologies
that aim solely for short-term and unbridled profit.
In tl;lis debate, which must also be a battle (that is, which must
be translated into a policy concretely expressed in legislative
sures), one priority must be to constitute a European politics of
spirit in relation to these concerns, and, on this basis, and more
generally, to define a new industrial model- because, in the epoch
of cultural capitalism, the totality of producer and consumer
behaviour is affected by the need for such a revolution. I use the
word 'revolution', here, to the extent that it is a matter of posing
that an epoch has passed by and become outmoded [revalue], and
in the sense that, if one can speak of a third industrial revolution,
then this must also be a matter of a doubly epokhal redoubling,
resulting in a correlative political, social and cultural revolution.
Faced with the enormous scale of American public investment
in these domains, both direct and indirect (mor_e often than not
through the intermediary of the military), European politics, in its
paucity, remains dumbstruck: the European Commission in 1998
devoted, in total, 0.06 per cent of its budget to audiovisual cre-
ation28 for the whole of the Union, which is one day's worth of
the common agricultural policy, and one third of the assistance
granted to tobacco growers. These figures must be seen in relation
to the statement by the entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch
(one of
the main supporters of Tony Blair and his 'third way'), who
declared in Birmingham, during a summit on audiovisual policy
Decadence 23
organized by the European Commission, that Europe creates itself
more effectively through the media than it does through its cur-
rency: this was clearly correct, and was the lesson of the deplor-
able electoral results of the European election of 13 June 2004.
But audiovisual Europe, which is more than a market for
Australian, American and Japanese investors, will only be able to
maintain itself on the condition that it breaks not only with the
American organization of audiovisual production, but with the
American industrial model of which this audiovisual production
is only a function.
As I have shown elsewhere, the United States was quick to
understand the power of audiovisual temporal objects because
the way it was confronted with the question of adoption was
unlike that of any other nation: America developed an industrial
politics projecting the image of the American 'we', which was
also a commercial politics projecting the image of the I as a
consumer - the model of the consumer thus being invented by
America. More than its rponey or its military might, American
power consists in the force of Hollywood images and of the com-
puter programs which it has conceived- in its indu'strial capacity
to produce new symbols around which models of life are formed.
And this is so because, in the global economic war, conquering
markets has become more important than improving productivity
(which Marx could not see, and which Marxism failed to under-
stand), leading to the fact that in the United States culture becomes
that culture industry denounced by Horkheimer and Adorno,
and the of this sector of the economy becomes a
priority to the point that capitalism develops into cultural hyper-
The model of the culture industries developed in the United
States, however, insofar as its goal is the mass production of
behaviour, inevitably leads to a hyper-synchronization that tends
to result in the attenuation of desire: the object of desire is always
a singularity, and singularity finds itself inexorably eliminated.
Now, without desire, there is no longer desire for the future. Leroi-
Gourhan has shown that a process of adoption constitutes itself
less by the sharing of a common past than by the projection of
a desire for the future, from a common interpretation of this
past, which is itself, anyway, always artificial. This projection
24 Decadence
is the condition of what Leroi-Gourhan calls becoming-unified,
which characterizes the constitution of all social groups, and
which is in general also a process of enlargement and territorial
expansion, in particular through the integration of older social
groups into a larger totaHty: this is what Cleisthenes and Alexander
accomplished, each in his own way, and what Leroi-Gourhan
describes as the ancient genesis of present-day China, and also
what North America organizes with its cultural technologies and
culture industries, and it is the inevitable destiny of all human
groups. It is also, and finally, the task of a 'European construction'
within the framework of an individuation process that has become
And if, consequently, such unification could only be produced
through the common projection of a desire for the future, then
the creation of such a desire must be the absolute political priority
for the constitution. of any European policy. Now, desire is, firstly,
engendered by way of the symbolic. And symbolic production is
today, for the great majority of the populations of the industrial
democracies, the work of the culture industries. This is why the
of European psychic and collective individuation presup-
poses the establishment of an industrial politics exceeding the
currently dominant model, and presupposes profoundly rethink-
ing the status and function of new culture industries, a possibility
that has arisen because the digital technical system enables a com-
plete and profound redefinition of the functioning of media.
8. The task of Europe in the division of the West
and global individuation
Three years separate us from September 11, a date that carries us
well beyond French, European and even American horizons. That
day in New York has reshaped the veritable landscape of European
'construction': the world suddenly crystallized and distinguished
political, economic and spiritual entities in new ways. Europe,
North America, Asia, and those one refers to in hasty shorthand
as the countries of the South (among these countries are some
unclassifiable singularities), and which include those of the Near
and Middle East, suddenly find themselves obliged to .redefine the
nature of their relations.
Decadence 25
A major factor within this redefinition has been the sudden clear
affirmation of a schism at the core of what, until that point, had
been designated with the name 'the West', a name under which
falls, moreover, almost all of the 'industrial democracies'. This
schism seems irreversible. This is not necessarily bad news for
those who distinguish themselves in this way: the schism of
Christianity eventually permitted its .diversification and transfor-
mation. It does not mean that Europe and North America must
not, in the future, continue to cultivate privileged relations and to
cooperate, even to intensify what could thus become an exchange
rather than a form of mimetism. Europe must still have expecta-
tions of, and learn from, a more sustained exchange with America
-but America, too, must learn to wait [attendre] for others rather
than just to drawing [attirant] them in. And, just as Nietzsche
thought the future of Germany by projecting it on to the level of
Europe, thereby denationalizing it, so too Europe can only think
itself by thinking of the global future, and by thinking itself in
becoming-planetary, in the sense that the process of European
psychic and collective individuation can today only occur within
a much vaster process of individuation, one that is now manifestly
that of plan.etary humanity: most im.portantly, this is not a matter
of developing a new Eurocentrism.
On the contrary, the future of Europe passes through the reaf-
firmation of its critical power. cannot inaugurate the
process of individuation in which it must consist by seeking its
'essence', its 'identity', or the meaning of its 'cultural heritage'.
And the question is not that of knowing what Europe is. Europe
is not: it becomes.
And like all psycho-social individuation, it is
a fiction - a fiction which only -lasts as long as people believe in
it. It is a process of adoption which, insofar as it effectively engen-
ders adoption, is also an individuation, but which only exists as
the projection of a future remaining always to come, and thus a
future which only exists in the mode of this projection.
is obviously constituted by its 'heritage', which is its force. But
this is only a force as a power of the future- that is, as the capa-
city to break with that decadent, exhausted and self-destructive
state of affairs to which the industrial model of the twentieth
century has led, a model which shaped the American way of life,
and which became the model for every industrial democracy, at a
26 Decadence
time when they were still prosperous. Free from cultural baggage
[incantations patrimoniales ], but still supported by its past, the
future of Europe lies in its critique, without concessions to an
industrial model which is collapsing, and it therefore lies in the
invention of another model.
Europe must, therefore, invent its own political and industrial
project: any specifically political project cannot be distinguished
independently of a correspondingly specific industrial project, and
this is not merely a question of strategic industrial choices, so that,
for example, it might be considered necessary to reinforce European
aeronautics, ot develop a European industrial software, and so
Such ideas may be of interest, but they are not relevant to
the questions here being pursued: the project of conceiving a new
industrial model requires a complete rethinking of the organiza-
tion of production and consumption, and in particular requires
putting a cancellation date on the imperatives of that particular
form of subsistence referred to as 'development', whether 'sustain-
able' or otherwise.
In this context, Europe must without doubt engage in signifi-
cant dialogue with China, that immense country which will" soon
become fully industrial, but which also inherits an extremely long
9. On the construction process: the struggle
against addiction
There is a catastrophe, in terms of the political decadence of c a p i ~
talist democracies, a catastrophe in the sense that a new industrial
model, and by the same token a cultural, and therefore political,
model, must be conceived and implemented, and this must take
place at a continental level - that of Europe - as an entirely new
notion of capitalism-become-cultural, on a worldwide scale.
Within the current capitalism typical of control societies, the func-
tion of culture has been reduced to socializing production by
standardizing consumer behaviour, culture thereby becoming the
agent par excellence of this control. Now, as I have said elsewhere,
and as I will return to in what follows, this control is an exploita-
tion of libidinal energy that exhausts this energy, and it is in this
way that the industrial model emerging from twentieth-century
Decadence 27
modernity reaches its limit, particularly in Europe and principally
in wealthy Europe.
Encountering this limit, which constitutes an immense danger,
is also a chance: it is the chance to invent, at the moment when
the mutation of the technical system makes possible new arrange-
ments, another social model, which could foreshadow a new
stage of becoming of the industrial democracies of the entire
world. No Logo by Naomi Klein, and The Age of Access by
Jeremy Rifkin, have had enormous worldwide success, and first
of all in North America. This is not an epiphenomenon, but a sign
pointing to the fact that another way of life is being sought.
Europeans, in the search for their new story [histoire], must be
interpreters of these signs and, as such, inventors of an industrial
organization constituted in the theatre of psychic and collective
individuation, that js, they lJlUSt create genuine modes of exis-
tence, to counter the reduction, by the obsolete industrial model,
of all existence to modes of subsistence, and in the end to ersatz,
stereotypical, existences.
Leroi-Gourhan saw this coming in
1965, when he wrote:
Our society's emotional ration is already largely made up of eth-
nographic accounts of groups that have ceased to exist - Sioux
Indians, cannibals, sea pirates- forming the framework for respon-
siveness systems of great poverty and arbitrariness. One may
wonder what the level of reality of these superficially sketched
images will be when their creators are drawn from a fourth genera-
tion of people remote-controlled in their audiovisual contacts with
a fictitious world.
In fact, forty years after these strikingly lucid lines were written,
the 'superficially sketched images' [images sommairement email-
lees, more literally: images summarily stuffed with straw- trans.]
have given way to reality television and the pseudo-experiences
on offer in American malls, which Jeremy Rifkin described thus:
The developers of the West Edmonton megamall envisioned bring-
ing the culture of the world into a giant indoor space, where it
could be commodified in the form of bits of entertainment to
delight and amuse visitors and stimulate the desire to buy. [ ... ]
One can ride a rickshaw; go onboard a full-length replica of the
28 Decadence
Santa Maria; pet farm animals in the petting zoo; be photographed
with a live lion, tiger, or jaguar; and take part in an 'authentic'
Mongolian barbecue.
And Leroi-Gourhan in a certain way antiCtpates the mall and,
more generally, the consequences of cultural capitalism described
by Rifkin, as well as reality television and the J;llOSt recent forms
of tourism, when he offers the followins prognosis:
Ten generations from now a writer selectedto produce social fiction
will probably be sent on a 'renaturation' course in a park a corner
of which he or she will have to till with a plough copied from a
museum exhibit and pulled by a horse borrowed from a zoo. He
or she will cook and eat the family meal at the family table, orga-
nize neighbourhood visits, enact a wedding, sell cabbages from a
market stall to other participants in the same course, and learn
anew how to relate the ancient writings of Gustave Flaubert to the
meagrely constituted reality.
In all these situations, it is matter of 'stimulating their desire
for consumption'. But the reality is that this submission of exis-
tence to the imperatives of global subsistence (and of an economic
development which can only widen the gap between producers
and consumers in view of intensifying their exchanges) leads to
an enormous disbanding [debandade]: the moral and spiritual
crisis afflicting our world is nothing other than the very disturbing
symptom of this disbanding. Every human being is constituted by
his or her intimate and original relation to singularity and, first of
all, by the that he or she has of their singularity, of the
necessity of their being-unique, and this is why herdish behav-
iours, almost like the image we have of human deming, provoke
a tremendous malaise among those who endure therp, a dangerous
dissatisfaction with oneself and a profound loss of belief in the
future, the paradox being that this malaise and this feeling of loss
in fact reinforce the herdish tendency itself, through a retroactive
loop constituting a vicious circle. It is this circle that must be
broken: this and decadence and the obligations it creates for us as
political task.
Cultural capitalism exploits that vicious circle consisting in
the fact that consumption and the resulting herdishnes!) induce
Decadence 29
anxiety, an anxiety which therefqre caught within a feedback
lqop th;:tt merely reinforce$ consumer behaviour, behaviour that
tries in vain to compensate for this anxiety: such a pattern is
typical of an addictive cycle. Addiction is the effective reality
of the dominant industrial model. This addiction is an annihila-
tion of the subject of the addiction by the object of addiction,
that is, an absorption of his or her existence by that which, here,
tries to maintain and augment mechanisms of subsistence: con-
sumption is the everyday mode of subsistence, but industrial
consumption is a hypertrophied fo.t;ll) of consumption, to the point
that it becomes an object of addiction. Now, just as an unlimited
exploitation of natural, resources by industrial investment is
impossible, so too a society which, by completely submitting to
subsistence imperatives, nullifies the existence of those who
compose it, is doqmed to collapse.
This is true for everyone,
consciously or otherwise, as a global process of degradation,
where (<;onscious time) has become a commodity,
the price of which is calculable in the marketplace, a commodity
about which negotiations take place every day in terms of 'supply'
and 'demand'.
This is why, in relation to the idea, irresolute and dry, abstract
and formal, inscribed within an old but still dominant industrial
model, of what is called 'European construction', created through
administrative measures and various exhortations, from 'direc-
tives' which in the eyes of Europeans fail to support any kind of
project - no more than does the euro, and this is what became
obvious on 13 June 2004, the current president of the Union
being, furthermore, not one likely to make changes in this regard
-it is a matter of unleashing a process that creates a rupture with
this exhausted epoch. This must be, precisely, the process of a new
European individuation, itself inscribed in a planetary process. A
new history, following the catastrophe, must establish the condi-
tions of a new epoch of Western psychic and collective individu-
ation, differentiating itself from what until now has been the
industrial and democratic West in its totality, localizing itself in
Europe, replaying through the projection of a reinvented industrial
future the individuation of pre-individual funds which this conti-
nent, a geographical and historical entity, supports on its soil and
through its inhabitants.
30 Decadence
As for that new and gigantic planetary immensity of which
September 11 was at once the vertiginous date of birth, the drawing
of new frontiers, and a hold on the unconscious, how might we
broach this, given that everything appears to have become utterly
unpredictable insofar as it is all utterly irrational? The only pos-
sible approach to such a question consists in affirming, through
an uncompromising critique, the possibility of a gap within the
horizon-to-come, constituting a motive of desire and, as such, a
genuine reason. An irrational society is one that demotivates those
who 'constitute it - and this is what today provokes the unlimited
industrial exploitation of libidinal energy. This is what I have
elsewhere called 'disbanding'. And it is what I call here the deca-
dence of industrial democracies.
10. Political shame
The 'French malady', if there is one - what certain people have in
a very dated and laboured fashion felt it necessary to call France's
'decline' - is a version of that malady of the we afflicting those
industrial societies referred to as democracies: it is not a national
decline, but the decadence of a planetary epoch and of a political
and economic model that has today become globalized. No
doubt each of these democracies has 'its' decadence. But this is
much more a matter of a process of the disindividuation of indus-
trial democracies in general, a process through which these democ-
racies are connected to a series of exchanges, products, symbols
and behavioural models, and forming in totality a process of
planetary reach - and hence a process which, equally, comes to
be exported into countries that are neither democratic nor indus-
trial, but nonetheless find themselves carried along into their own
Speaking of the decline of France is in fact a way of masking
the decadence that is actually the source of this discourse, and it
is a way of preventing reflection on the decadence of the West and
of the democratic and industrial model which it has engendered.
There are numerous versions of this kind of discourse, the so-
called 'decline of France' being merely one of them. It is as a
function of our capacity to will a new epoch of the individuation
process - that is, to invent it, and to thus stimulate a psychic and
- ...
Decadence 31
collective individuation process - that the critique of decadence
may interrupt a process that, if it merely takes its course, will lead
to a worldwide degeneration of humanity. The fear of speaking in
terms of degeneration,_ and the mask that the theme of national
decline constitutes, are what, preventing the critique of the deca-
dent model of industrial democracy, in turn prevents the renewal
of political thought and decision, and thereby engenders discredit:
political miscreance, or the disbelief in politics, is a political cyni-
cism which takes the form of neither believing in nor wanting to
believe in what might lie beyond this decadence. Decadence is that
which supposes in advance that everything is already finished.
The necessary leap [saut] from the national to the planetary -
without which no political thought is possible today, in passing
through the continentality of our 'petit cap', such that it must
become a localized individuation of a renewed industrial future
-is only possible by in the first place rethinking that global deca-
dence common to all industrial democracies, and the consequences
of which are being exported everywhere else: this leap is perhaps
nothing other than a jumpstart [sursaut].
(Certainly not all are industrial democracies, and this
is never somethiqg to rejoice about, but neither should these
regions be submitted to a destiqy of resembling us, suiting us, or
overwhelming us: these being neither industrial nor
democratic, are for the most part places cont'aining great suffering,
where it is very difficult to survive, where in some cases brutality
reigns, and where the future appears condemned to disappear into
a black hole - even if, as everyone knows, and which has been a
long t_ime coming, China, which, like Europe, is a very old indi-
viduation process, of which the cultural pre-individual funds are
monumental, ll).igbt stjll hold surprises in store, both good
ones, as its cinema causes us to think, and bad ones, to the degree
that hyper-exponential rates of growth characterize the curves by
which one measures both its 'development' and the immensity of
its problems.)
In this context one must conclude that, unfortunately, the people
of France, and the French political apparatus, from April2002 up
until June 2004, and in spite of the extreme importance of the last
election, have yet to change in any way either their their
attitudes, their practices or: their non-projects. They have opened
32 Decadence
no space for thought; nor for debate. Social anxiety, often despair,
deviance, and at times suicidal behaviours, the causes of which
remain partially mysterious and in every case multiple, have nev-
ertheless been found to be dangerously aggravated.
No lesson
has been learned, either by the government or by the opposition:
having already been stunned by the realization they had managed
to hold on to power, however narrowly, they both managed to
forget, within a matter of weeks, and as quickly as they had dis-
covered it, the overwhelming decay revealed on this infamous 21
April 2002, and for which, until 28 March 2004, no pacifying
rattle would appear. They therefore maintain their silence and
their reserve, giving an impression of humility and decency, indeed
of shame, the appearance of being reflective, but this appearance
is, in reality, completely illusory.
It might have been hoped that following .these warning shots
fired at the entire political class - for such were these national
elections - the opposition parties at least would in some Way, at
last, have begun to approach the true questions yet to be asked in
the debate about the future of Europe. This interval, hoWever,
from 28 March (which was a warning to the entire political scene
and not merely to the French government) until 13 June (the
date of the European election, but an election which was clearly
also of national importance), was not only characterized by an
absence of political reflection. During this brief but decisive period,
and beyond the usual cliches and egocentric chattering which
imagines itself to be 'strategic', there also took place a proliferat-
ing media commotion, designed to 'occupy the ground', but in a
way that was unusually demagogical and irresponsible. Yet there
was a distinct failure to imagine that it might be necessary to make
possibfe a new collective intelligence of our situation, grounded
in the analysis of these very serious failures.
As for the current public institutions, having failed to propose
a European policy, they decided instead to launch, most noticeably
on the walls and trains of the Paris metro, a publicity campaign
in the style of mass advertising, a campaign that was not only
deaf and blind to what was heralded by the so-called 'anti-pub'
movement, but also unrelentingly contributed to the growth of
every kind of misery: economic, symbolic, libidinal and political.
It is thus that the European parliament introduced, in partnership
Decadence 33
with CIDEM (Civisme et Democratie), a series of advertisements
on radio, on roads, in cinemas, on buses and on the metro. And
thus throughout France one could read posters inscribed with the
following text:
June 13 -Let's vote [votons]
For the European Parliament
The protection of consumers: our representatives
are working for you.
It is impossible not to be struck by the admission contained within
this slogan: advertising is being used to address those who must
be called to behave as citizens, but who at the same time are placed
in the position of consumers, as i they alone were responsible for
their situation - that is, as if the political organizations have
nothing to say to them about this situation itself, except that it is
an immutable fact. And it is a strange use indeed of the personal
pronoun, 'vous', a usage that does not correspond to the subse-
quent conjugation of the verb in the first person ('votons'), since
the latter makes its appeal to a we.
Such an address does not seem capable of speaking to a we and
in fact gives the impression that it is unconcerned with such a we:
rather, it addresses itself to the mass. This is not merely a matter
of grammatical awkwardness by the public relations consultants
entrusted with this campaign, and to whom political institutions
have delegated their responsibilities. Through this European par-
liamentary bureaucracy, in collaboration with the French govern-
ment, Europe and the French state address themselves to the mass
of consumers - to whom the electors are in fact reduced - while
saying to them that they must protect themselves, and that they
can only do so while remaining, at the very moment that they
vote, within their status as consumers, something which is thus
reaffirmed by this billboard, as though it were a
matter of an ineluctable fate.
This billboard [affiche publicitaire] is therefore not a political
poster [affiche politique]: discourse or thought, that is, the cri-
tique of what is and what becomes, has given way to public rela-
tions [communication], and the demos disappears into political
34 Decadence
consumerism or, rather, into a conswnerism which is in fact anti-
political, that is, self-destructive.
To prevent any misunderstandjng, however, I must immediately
add: this is not a matter of condemning consumption; nor of
condemning the original meaning of 'consumerism', which ini-
tially referred to the movement in defence of consumers. Not
merely insofar as we are living beings, but also insofar as we are
social beings, that is, economic beings, we consume, we have
consumed, and we will consume - and, inasmuch as we are con-
sumers, we are in need of being protected, and thus we need
organizations to protect us in this way. Consumption is the condi-
tion of industrial activity, and no exit from this situation is any
longer on the horizon: the age of technics will never be overcome,
contrary to delusions which may be spread far and wide. It is no
longer a matter of condemning publicity as such. Even if it is
necessary to contain its excesses, which moreover threaten it
directly and mechanically, industrial innovation clearly requires
organs of communication and of the promotion of the new prod-
ucts in which it consists.
11. The consistence of the vita activa
It is, 011 the other hand, a matter of condemning consm:nerism,
defined here as the reduction of the citizen and, more generally,
of the psychic and collective individual, to the status of pure con-
sumer, that is, to his or her conditions of such that
his or her conditions of existence are annihilated. It is thus a
matter of struggling against the hegemony of an industrial division
of social roles that has become obsolete, and against which con-
sumer organizations must themselves struggle more and !llOre -
and, in particular, wherever industrial objects involve practices
irreducible to mere usages, that is, irreducible to that becoming
'worn out' [usure] which leads to the disposability Uetabilite] of
that of which it makes use, a usage submitting the object to pure
and simple utility.
I am talking here about those industrial objects that one refers
to as equipment, that one treats as tools, but that have an in,stru-
mental vocation that is not merely utilitarian: thus it is that the
tool utilizes [utilise] the world, to which it is nevertheless also a
Decadence 35
mode of access; the instrument instructs [instruits] this world,
makes the world - given that any tool, precisely insofar as it is a
mode of access, can become an instrument, like a chisel in the
hands of the sculptor, but can also become the opposite.
Today, a vast instrumentality has begun to take place traversing
all the equipment issued from the three preceding industrial revo-
lutions, and of which a politics, at once industrial and cultural, is
henceforth required: this instrumentality opens the possibility of
a new age of symbolic exchange.
The conditions of existence, insofar as they are irreducible to
subsistence alone, are symbolic activities - even those which, since
the Greeks, have been conceived as the rights and duties of the
citizen - activities which weave the consistence of what Hannah
Arendt called the vita activa. The question of this consistence
is the subject of the following chapter, a chapter that demon-
strates that the loss of individuation is a loss of consistence, a
loss which, in the course of the twentieth century, has extended
not only to the modes of production of subsistence but to those
modes of consumption through which existence has been denied
In other words, the submission of existence to standardized
behavioural models of consumption follows the process of pro-
letarianization that had begun in the nineteenth century with the
standardization of modes of production. The consumer is the
new proletarian figure, and the proletariat, very far from disap-
pearing, is a condition from which it has become nearly impossible
to escape.
Belief and Politics
In the Capitalist Age
... not to envisage power from a juridical point of view, but from
a technological one.
Michel Foucault
What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe
what is coming, what cannot fail to come: the advent of nihilism.
Friedrich Nietzsche
... and when you have to embark on the sea, you emigrants, you,
too, are compelled to by this- a faith!
Friedrich Nietzsche
1. Capitalism: a specific epoch of the Western
grammatization process
The central idea of the preceding chapter may be summarized: we
live in decadent times for democracy, a decadence entailed by the
becoming-consumerist of industrial societies. The advent of con-
sumerism is inscribed within that process of social transformation
that, since Marx, one calls capitalism. Capitalism, which during
the twentieth century became cultural capitalism, now tends to
liquidate politics properly speaking, that is, first of all, to liquidate
the public power of the state, but, more generally, it tends to liq-
uidate the psychic and collective individuation process through
Belief and Politics 37
which singularities are formed and exchanged - this process being
itself the experience of its own singularity, that is, of its incalcu-
lability, or, again, of the irreducibility of its future to mere becom-
ing. Now, having become cultural and at the same time
hyper-industrial, capitalism is today essentially computational,
and as such tends to eliminate those singularities that resist the
calculability of all values on the market of economic exchange.
This tendency towards liquidating politics, and the individua-
tion in which politics consists, must be fought, but without holding
on to an obsolete idea of politics, that is, one founded on the
discourse of 'resistance': holding on to such a politics could
only mean becoming ensnared in one more delusion. One must
struggle against this tendency by inventing rather than by resisting.
Resistance can only ever be reactive and, as such, it belongs
to nihilism - in the Nietzschean sense of these words. 'Politics' -
if this word must be retained, which is not certain - must be
resolutely, immediately and conjointly, but distinctly, the inven-
tion of a scientific and technological politics, an industrial politics,
and a cultural politics, but the meaning of this last word, 'culture',
must be completely revisited: this is a new task, a task that
precedes all others. It is in this way alone that politics can and
must elaborate a new model of the industrial organization of
Combating a tendency within a process means, first of all,
thinking this process as the articulation of a dual [double] ten-
dency, which is what makes it dynamic. In other words, this
process is a conjunction of tendendes, such that one is indispens-
able to the maintenance of the other. This dynamic organization
constituted as a dual tendency, as the conjunction of two compos-
ing tendencies, is a structure inscribed at the very heart of indi-
viduation, and still more as what confers upon it its movement,
that is, also, since this is what drives it, it is what constitutes its
motive, a motive which is therefore always already dual and, as
such, a duplicity [duplice: the translation as 'duplicity' contains
an echo hot only of duplicitousness but also of duplication and
multiplicity- trans.].
The process of individuation, in fact, always already tends
toWards unification, towards becoming-one, that is, in-divisible
(as the word 'in-dividual' literally signifies), and yet it never ceases
Belief and Politics
its becoming, and is therefore never actually completed [acheve]
and always remain!) to come. The individual individuating itself is
living- and this is also true of civilizations, which can be 'mortal'
only to this extent - and when the individual reaches completion,
this is becau_se they have died. This incompletion [inachevement]
is, as such, an trait of individu-ation insofar as it is a
process, a process which, as the becoming-other of the one, is also
a becoming-multiple of this one.
The in-dividual, jp. short, never the state of being
in-dividual. And this is why it is necessary to reason in terms of
processes, rather than in terms of stasis or states. This originary
contradiction within individuation, that tension constituting it as
its dual motive, is what Simondon thinks when. he characterizes
individuation as a metastable equilibrium, that is, as a process
that is in movement to the extent that it is: on the one hand, par-
tially stable, close to equilibrium and able to maintain its form
(as for instance a whirlpool maintains itself within a flowing
current, while deforming and evolving); and yet, on
the other hand, partially unstable, insofar as this form never ceases
to become other than what it is.
To put this in another way, a tendency is never bad in itself:
it is the condition of the tep.qency to which it seems to oppose
itself, while in reality it never ceases to compose with it. In this
way, tendencies form a tranductive relation, a relation which
constitutes its terms such that one term cannot ex:ist without the
other. It is possible, however, that at times runaway tendencies
can form, which, becoming hegemonic, tend to eliminate the con-
trary tendency and, as a r;esult, can destroy the relation through
which they constituted themselves, and, in so doiqg, may destroy
that 'rationalization' described by Weber, and the sepa-
ratioq of capital and labour described by Marx, capitali:;;m is the
expression of a tendency towards the mechanical externalization
[exteriorisation machinique] of that which characterizes the sin-
gularities composing the process of individuation; and, as it
is the mechanized epoch of what, in De Ia misere symbglique 1,
I have called grammatization.
Nevertheless this tendency, as
mechanical exteriorization, has the effect of producing a st;IJ)dard-
ization an.d a formalization, submitting everything that it formal-
Belief and Politics 39
izes to calculability. As such, it pursues rationalization (in Weber's
sense), and tends thereby also to synchronize the diachronies in
which these singularities consist. This synchronization, insofar as
it is mechanized and calculated, and makes conscious time [temps
des consciences] into a commodity, is nevertheless a hyper-syn-
chronization, and in this way it seems that capitalism opposes
And yet, beyond the fact that diachrony is always constituted
on the basis of synchrony, singularities can and must be recast
[rejouer] on a new plane in this capitalist and hyper-industrial
stage of exteriorization -failing which, it is the capitalist process
itself that will collapse, an outcome that would not in any way
be desirable: such an event would without doubt be premature
(that is, the individuation of capitalism has not advanced to the
point of being capable of giving way to a new organization) and,
were it to take place, would inevitably result both in innumerable
wars that would immediately become global, and in immense
chaos, if not indeed the disappearance of the human species. This
is not to say that capitalism is an eternal form of human organiza-
tion: such forms do not exist. Human history is a process of
individuation that never ceases inventing new forms of organiza-
tion, and for this reason we still do not know how, despite two
centuries of evolutionary thought, to conceive the fact that we
must now relearn how to think, that is, also, how to decide.
Grammatization, which lies at the origin of the invention of the
figure of the citizen, was in that epoch an expropriation of singu-
larities through the exteriorization of their characteristics, leading
to the liquidation of tribes and their replacement by demes, and
to the transfer of the most intense points of singularity from the
tribal level (represented by the chief) to the level of the isonomic
political individual - that is, such that each individual constituted
a singularity in law, of which the polis would be, as a process,
the ceaseless expression, renewed by this law and as the theatre
of its individuation. Nevertheless, the social becoming induced by
grammatization, in the form of the birth of the polis (that is, the
process of Western individuation), was already, at the same time,
the site of a conflict, expressed in the struggle between sophistry
and philosophy - that is, a conflict about the status of mnemo-
technics, which I have called ortho-graphy,
and which Plato called
" li
40 Belief and Politics
hypomnesis and logography, and to which he believed must be
opposed what he caUecJ anamnesis. During this period that gave
birth to the West, therefore, the question was to know what inter-
pretation to give to that form of grammatization that was unfold-
ing at that time.
Today, this question remains intact. And this is why the aQ.alysis
of the metaphysical blockage that Platonic philosophy has consti-
tuted, on this point in particular, is also the preliminary require-
ment for the critique of capitalism. (I develop these points in detail
in Technics and Time, awl will do so further in the fourth volume,
Symboles et diaboles.)
2. Capitalism and belief
To combat the tendency t<;wards the liquidation of politics is,
therefore, to combat a tendency of capitalism such as it is, an
epoch of Western psychic and collective individuation. Because the
'globalization' of capitalism, that is, also, its de- Westernization, is
a component of this individuation that pursues a grammatization
process at a planetary level, a process which requires epokhal
In brief, it is not a matter of opposing the capitalist process but,
9P. the contrary, of enabling it to see out its term, that is, of avoid-
ing its self-destruction, and hence permitting its transformation,
and perhaps thereby engendering, sorne day, a wholly other orga-
nization of individuation. Capitalism is a process of transforma-
tion of which we are ignorant of the end. It had a beginning, and
one day it will come to an end - but we have no way of knowing
where or when this will occur. The only way of living with this
p r o c e s ~ is to make it possible for it to follow itself out, until that
mo)llent when, coming to completion, it could perhaps engender
a new process, of which we remain utterly ignorant, because it is
incalculable. Insofar as it is an epoch of psychic and collective
individuation, capitalism has been preceded by a Western, pre-
capitalist past, and it will be followed by a future which is already
no longer simply Western, and which perhaps may not be capital-
ist: individuation is the constitution of the future a$ the opening
of the indeterminate to which all existing singularity bears witness,
which is singular precisely and uniquely in this sense, a_p.d to which
Belief and Politics 41
it bears witness as that which, in it, consists beyond that which
exists and which is its future - consistence, which shows itself
through the singularity of that which exists and which, as such,
is the singularity that must be protected.
Even though we are inevitably completely ignorant of it, we
must therefore pose that this future, which does not exist, is what
consists through all that which, as irreducible to mere subsistence,
exists, and which, as existence, singularly aims at (that is, in a
way itself indeterminable and as such diachronic) this consistence
of individuation insofar as it remains structurally to come and
as such indeterminate. And this is also why the critique of con-
temporary capitalism, insofar as it is the hegemony of subsistence
and the negation of existence, must pose the question of consis-
tence and, as such, of the belief constituting it, that is, in which
it consists.
As such, the consumerist transformation of industrial democra-
cies, the critical analysis of which must constitute the basis of a
renewal of the psychic and collective individuatioQ. process, must
be interpreted in relation to a process of becoming older than that
of the division of social classes. This is what Marx was unable to
think, because he failed to fully grasp the consequences of the
appearanc:e of mnemo-technics and mnemo-technologies, which
are the basis for both ancient and recent developments of the
grammatization process characterizing Western becoming. These
mnenw-techniques and mnemo-technologies, which constitute the
characteristic pre-individual funds of the psychic and collective
individuation process in which the West consisted, at present form
the basis, as digital technology, of a cultural capitalism that is both
hyper-industrial and planetary. Marxist analyses see the issue of
mnemo-technics and mnemo-technologies in terms of the relation
to the notion of 'superstructure',
but in fact hyper-industrial
capitalism consists in the impossibility of distinguishing infrastruc-
ture from superstructure - and for this reason the critique of such
a capitalism must also be a critique of Marx's philosophy.
I will refer, then, to that in which an individuation process
consists, and in this chapter I will attribute great importance to
this verb- 'to consist': that which consists is not that which exists;
it is that which gi.ves mea11ing [sens] (its direction and its move-
ment, or its driving force [force motrice]) to what exists, without
Belief and Politics
reducing itself to this existing. Existing is a fact. But existing only
consists as that which surpasses [depasse] its factuality [fait]. The
consistence of a fact is what the process of individuation, wherever
it occurs, is capable of projecting. This raises the question of what
I have elsewhere called retentional and protentional systems. In
effect, the process of individuation is temporal and, as such, is
woven with retentions and protentions, just like that temporal
object analysed by HusserU
In the course of the Western individuation process, consistence
was for a long time essentially established as the religious belief
constituted by the Church, insofar as it formed a retentiorial and
protentiortal system - and thus through discourse on the absolute
past, God the father, as well as on the absolute future, his son - a
system lasting until the advent of the Enlightenment .and the
French Revolution (which both foreshadowed the industrial
revolution and constituted its conditions of possibility) trans-
formed this religious belief into political and social belief, that
is, into belief in progress. This was, then, the beginning of the
dis-absolutization of the past and of the future and, as such, the
liquidation of the discourse of being, that is, of the ontotheo-
logico-political discourse which constituted the division of social
classes (nobility, clergy, third estate). It entailed, as well, confront-
ing an experience of becoming as 'disenchantment of the world',
but also, first of all, as a discourse of emancipation: of the trans-
formation of the world (of the world as becoming), and not only
the interpretation of the world (of the world as being).
Today, belief in progress, insofar as it is technological and, cor-
relatively, social and political, has collapsed (a fact which then
becomes translated into a dangerous divorce between science -
become technoscience- and society). Now, this collapse is also a
tendential and detemporalizing process: there tends to be less
consciousness of the past, and there also tends to be less of a
feeling for the future - and, as such, there is an attenuation of
the possibility of having an experience properly speaking. This
is the non-epoch of what I have called disorientation,
in which
the doubly epochal redoubling fails to occur, ot, in other words,
a non-epoch in which society disadjusts itself from the technical
system, and where this disadjustment is already, in itself, a loss
of time. But the technical system, itself tending to become a 'real
Belief and Politics 43
time' system, and tending to become a system of completely cal.-
culated and hyper-synchronized time, thus combines these two
processes of detemporalization that together lead to a loss of
individuation- something already expressed in a slogan typical of
young people at the end of the twentieth century: 'no future'.
3. Time and calculation in the capitalist age
The impossibility of a doubly epochal redoubling implies that
technology and society have become divorced. This is what Jean-
Lyotard believed it necessary to call 'the end of grand
narratives' (that is, of all narratives of emancipation through
progress), and hence it has been defined as a supposedly 'post-
modern' age. With the collapse of the idea of progress, an idea
that can never be anything other than a belief, it is the very belief
in politics that collapses. Some of the causes of this collapse,
moreover, are intrinsic to the becoming of the Western process of
psychic and collective individuation itself, causes that are thus
inscribed within it from the beginning, but there are also other
causes, arising specifically from the more recent epoch of capitalist
These are the two historical levels that require analysis if we
are to understand why it has not been possible to accomplish the
doubly epochal redoubling.
If this doubly epochal redoubling -
through which a new epoch of civilization is attained, following
the upheaval of the technical system- fails to occur today, this is
because, confronted with the fact that the instability of technical
becoming has become chronic, a situation completely unprece-
dented in human history, psycho-social individuation does not
succeed in reaching the point of inventing an epoch of individua-
tion capable of integrating this techno-logical hyper-diachronicity
as its motive. At this point, then, with technological evolution
having become incessant and therefore hyper-diachronic (that is,
technological obsolescence is involved in a process of continual
acceleration), the paradoxical result is that societies and the
individuals composing them regress to their most archaic stages,
and withdraw to a state of herdish hyper-synchronization in
which they become disindividuated. The diachronicity of society
and its members is defined only by its objects, and these support
Belief and Politics
usages the behavioural models of which are now formalized
and standardized by marketing, creating a situation in which
obsolescence prevents time from transforming these usages into
Beyond a thousand other explanations- of which Freud offered
the most important, when he studied tendencies in terms of the
life and death drives, and the way in which in the twentieth
century the conflict of these tendencies plays out as the age of
crowds and m,asses in their relation to technological explosion -
the impossibility of effecting a leap into a psycho-social individu-
ation capable of integrating techno-logical diachronicity can be
tied to two reasons, echoing two extremities of the history of
Western individuation: on one side the birth of philosophy, and
on the other side the becoming-hyper-industrial of capitalism:
Firstly, there is a metaphysical blockage inscribed in Western
psychic and collective individuation from its earliest beginnings:
the repression by the religious and lay clergy of the constitutiv-
ity of technics, a repression that continues today. (I treat this in
successive volumes of Technics and Time, and merely recall it
Secondly, those powers dominating the contemporary capitalist
process cultivate political obsolescence, in order to facilitate
and accelerate the capitalist process through a technical intel-
ligence pragmatically emancipated from Western metaphysics
-and which makes capitalism, as it were, factually 'deconstruc-
tive', but where this 'deconstruction' in fact becomes a destruc-
tion, resulting in what I have characterized as the decadence of
industrial democracies. (This is what I treat here.)
The question underlying all these processes is that of belief, such
that the death of God, and the development of economic and
managerial theories of trust, as calculated trust,
have rendered
this question both crucial and unthinkable.
Before going any further, I must restate that I am not at all
condemning calculation, not even the calculation of the possibility
of constituting and reinforcing trust or confidence. I have shown,
on the contrary, and counter to the thesis defended by Heidegger
in Being and Time, that no temporality of Dasein (that is, of
Belief and Politics 45
existence, that is, also, of any psycho-social process) is possible
(no relation to the future and no trust in this future is possible)
which does not pass thro1,1gh calculation. And there is a history
of this temporality (which is a history of individuation) to the
degree that there is a history of calculation. In the West, this
history of calculation becomes that of grammatization.
On the other hand, I argue that the reduction of trust (and of
time, that is, of belief in a futl}re) to pure calculation, which would
be capable therefore of eliminating everything incalculable, is
what radically destroys all trust, because it destroys all possibility
of believing: all possibility of believing in the indetermination of
the future, in the future as indeterminate and in this indetermina-
tion as a cham;e, an opening to the future as to its im-probability,
that is, to the fvture as irreducibly singular.
Because this BELIEf is the form of the relation to TIME, or
to time as relation (to those 'extases' which constitute it, as the
past, present and {utQre of individuation, both psychic and collec-
tive, and everything this entails). Now, because trust is only pos-
sible within a horizon of belief that surpasses it, calculating trust
is necessarily self-destructive: it is a denial of the future that is
' .. '
of time. As for the belief that inspires trust, this can and must also
take the form of fear. This is what the Greek word, elpis, means:
expectation (that is, protention), at once hope and fear.U Insofar
as it is indeterminate, time, like the future, can only be feared as
much as it is hoped for, to the degree that it permits hope. But
with the decomposition of those forces and tendencies constitutil)g
a process of individuation, hope and fear come to oppose one
another a11d thus decompose. Hope gives way to resentment [res-
sentiment], and fear gives way to the future-panic [devenir-panique]
of the mass age.
Such a form of capitalism results, as the rationalization of
society, in the reduction of trust to calculation. It is no longer,
however, a matter of condemning this historica.l process, which
does in fact open new stakes for humanity. If the stakes opened
by the development of the capitalist process call for combat, this
must not be conducted against the process of which capitalism is
the bearer, that process which pursues grar:nmatization, but rather
against that which, in this process, threatens this process itself, as
its limits and its contradictions. Capitalism is before anything else
46 Belief and Politics
an age of credit. Insofar as it is credit, capitalism presupposes a
belief in the future -a belief in a future which may be anticipated,
and therefore a future which can be calculated, but also a belief
in a future which, because it can only be absolutely indeterminate
and open (failing which there would be no future) always exceeds
the calculations that capital can count on [escompter]. This is why
the current stage of capitalism, which is hyper-industrial to the
degree that it is hyper-computational, insofar as it is capable of
transforming everything into numbers, is encountering its limit
and entering into a zone of very great danger.
The belief that the capitalist process needs is at its core an-
economic, if one understands by economy that which can be
reduced to an economy of subsistence. If one does not want to
understand economy in this way, if one does not want to see it
reduced in this way merely to subsistence, one must pose that
belief is only economic in the sense that it is a libidinal, symbolic
and spiritual economy incapable of being reduced to the computa-
tion of capital: it is a matter of an economy of singularity, which
calls for a politics of singularities - something that could only
emerge from combat.
4. Combat in capitalism, capitalism as combat,
combat against capitalist totalitarianism,
and the question of the best (ariston)
The absolute indetermination of the future, that is, of what an
individuation process can project as protention, is the encounter
of this process with its own singularity, but which, mostly, is con-
cretely expressed only as an experience of singularity that this
process encounters in terms of what is not its own, but rather that
of another with which or whom it co-individuates (and forms a
we), including the other thing, which is, most of the time, that
through which it is possible to encounter that other with whom
it may be possible to form a we.
Singularity, then, is the motive of all protention, and protention
is the individuation process dynamically projecting itself. This
singularity, furthermore, can never be reduced to the particularity
of a whole of which it would be nothing more than a part
calculable on the basis of this whole itself. Affirming all this,
Belief and Politics 47
however, does not mean that it is a matter of opposing calculation
to belief; nor, more generally, that it is a matter of thinking
through oppositions - it is, rather, a matter of thinking through
But this does not mean that an individuation process must not
oppose that is, combat - that which, in the expression of the
tendencies that weave the dynamic of individuation, leads to the
decomposition of these tendencies. This question of combat is
central, and must be entirely re-elaborated in terms of politics. All
individuation is a combat. All politics is a combat. All existence
is a combat. Politics and existence are forms of combat against
their base [vile] tendencies- that is, against the attempt by tenden-
cies to become hegemonic and to destroy the counter-tendencies
which constitute them, and which they constitute, a destruction
that always results in a simplification of existence, dragging it
down to the level of mere subsistence conditions. All existence
must always struggle against that which, in itself, tends to renounce
existence. And all politics must struggle against that which, in
psycho-social individuation, spontaneously inclines towards this
same renunciation.
The renunciation of is a renunciation of becoming-
other as future, that is, as ?levation.
The psycho-social individual that one most commonly calls
'man' is a being for whom the fundamental movement is to elevate
itself: it is thus defined by its conquest of the upright stance, of
erect posture, which is also and in the same movement, .its con-
quest of tecbl}icity, that is, of a mobility which passes through
its artefactualization, through its ars and metiers, its knowledge
and its power. As a process of individuation, this conquest as
elevation is never complete: ht1man ,beings may launch themselves
towards Mars and accelerate beyond 'escape velocity', or write
Un coup de des jamais n'abolira le hazard [A Throw of the Dice
Will Never Abolish Chance- MallaJme], they may teach at the
College de France, or simply raise their ow!) children, rather than
abandoning them to the mental disequilihtiuw in which today the
reign of television consists (which, i11 our present world, tends to
diminish everything that might be elevated, crushing and literally
wiping out all other social organization of transmission and, of
course, first of all, the family and the school), but this human being
48 Belief and Politics
is always in an original relation, always fragile, but always renew-
ing itself, to the question of his or her own elevation, and to the
question of the elevation of his or her fellows- and, in particular,
of his or her descendants, or his or her posterity.
In spite of this, each human being knows from experience, and
immediately, and without any doubt, and hence before any experi-
ence, that within them lies that fatigue and that fragility that drags
them down, beneath themselves, and beneath all of that which,
before them, was conquered by his or her ancestors [ascendants],
who then instilled in him or her their ascendancy [qui conquirent
ainsi sur lui leur ascendant], that is, their authority. Each human
being knows this, and that is why each man must combat himself,
ceaselessly having to struggle against that which, in him, could
lead him to no longer be bim:self, to no longer ex-sist. Hence the
case of Richard Durn, that miserable human being who, no longer
feeling that he ex-sisted, came to know that he was going to
'commit evil'. Because to be 011eself, to ex-sist, to never be reduced
to mere subsistence, is to be that which, in itself, raises itself up
against destructive tendencies - without which, however, no ele-
vating force would be possible. The life-drive, for example, is a
tendency that constitutes itself as nothing other than what com-
poses with the death-drive. Such is the duplicity of the motive of
individuation, a duplicity that, when psycho-social individuation
enters into a phase of decomposition, suddenly liberates - within
those individuals who suffer the most and are the most fragile,
those whose primordial narcissism has been destroyed - the worst
expressions of mere instinct, that which one calls a transgression
[passer a l' acte].
The process of psychic and collective individuation, precisely
insofar as it ties together the psyche and the social, where the
psyche is an originarily social reality, is in principle that which
maintains this psyche as turned towards what surpasses it and
stands above it: desire, insofar as desire is not merely crude instinct
[Ia pulsion brute] but rather the always already social interaction
of drives - insofar as this is the composition of the death- and
life-drives, the play between which is translated socially as the
composition of the synchronic and the diachronic.
Today, the capitalist process tends to engender the decom-
position of these tendencies, rather than articulating them in a
Belief and Politics 49
becoming-social of psychic becoming, which is just as much
the becoming-psychic - that is, singular - of social becoming.
Capitalism is a stage of Western psycho-social individuation, now
planetarized, depending upon a technical becoming which has
itself become planetary, and, more precisely, upon a generalization
of grammatization throughout technical becoming and through-
out the entire world (this is the becoming-mnemo-technological
of the entire technical system). And given all this, what must
immediately be added is that capitalism, as a process of individu-
ation, a carrier of composing tendencies, has now reached a stage
in which these tendencies tend on the contrary to oppose each
other, and hence a stage in which capitalism itself decomposes.
I have tried to show, in 'To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us:
From September 11 to April21' (in Acting Out), that this decom-
position principally resides in the tendency of capitalism to hyper-
synchronize the temporalities of consciousnesses, to eliminate
their diachronies and, as such, to annul their singularities by
turning them into particularities, that is, mere parts of a whole.
In this way, capitalism, in its hyper-industrial - that is, hyper-
computational- stage, expresses a totalitarian tendency consisting
in the tendency to reduce everything to calculation, to turn all
singularity into mere parts of a whole. Capitalism thereby tends
towards self-destruction - because it destroys credit as much as
the motives of production (that is, a demotivation of work takes
place) and of consumption [consommer] (that is, a consumptive
wasting away [ consomption] takes place, in the form of the disgust
which the consumer comes to feel for himself).
It is this tendency of capitalism that it is a matter of combating.
But this tendency, such as it finds expression today - that is, as
a specific stage of the process of grammatization, its digital
stage, making it possible to mobilize calculation technologies
in order to control behaviour - does nothing other than bring
to a planetary level a tendency that inhabits every psyche. It is
thus a matter of ensuring that this tendency recomposes with its
counter-tendency within the new conditions opened up by the
computational stage of grammatization, and of ensuring that
this recomposition is the invention of a process that socializes
psychic tendencies, so that calculation leads to a new epoch of
" .,
50 Belief and Politics
Before getting to this question, however, which- will constitute
the content of the following chapters and of the second volume
of this work, we must deepen our understanding of the conse-
quences of the fact that, if the psyche were not itself already the
bearer of a tendency which capitalism, decomposing the play of
tendencies that form the social, liberates as a base tendency, the
base tendency of capitalism itself, then none of this would have
any more effect on psychic and social existence than pouring water
on a duck's back. This social necrosis - exploiting the most base
propensities rooted deeply within the psyche, and exploiting them
in a sort of mechanical or automatic way, that is, not intentionally,
but merely as the extremization of the unprecedented consequences
of that process which capitalism is insofar as it is the paradoxical
question of its credit - is at the origin of what I here call mecre-
ance, that is, dis-belief or miscreance.
If there is a singular combat that today must be taken up, then
taking up this combat requires the preliminary proposition that
tne necessity of combat would be permanent: existence is that
which must struggle against its own decay (against that which I
will analyse in a coming volume as its beastly stupidity [betise]),
and- society will always have been that which fights its necessarily
base part - 'necessarily', since it consists in a tendency which,
when it composes with its counter-tendency, is also the source of
the dynamism of society. In other words, the process of individu-
ation is a state of permanent war, but a war contained and trans-
formed through psycho-social competition [emulation], which the
Greeks called eris- the elevation towards an always possible best,
5. The worst and the best in the epoch of nihilism
as questions of war and class struggle
But eris may always turn into destructive struggle, and become
discord. The ariston, as a motive, is therefore duplicitous: the best
may contain the worst. The inverse is also true, and this is why
Nietzsche has Zarathustra say:
man has need of that which is worst in him if he wishes to reach
what is best.
Belief and Politics 51
This 'worst' is the drive which, or, rather, the play of life- and
death-drives which, when bound, form desire as individuation, but
which, unbound, destroy all individuation.
In the Greek city, the culture of moderation or measurement
[Ia culture de Ia mesure], of the metron, like piety, incessantly
brings the citizenry to re_call that their mortal situation, between
beasts and gods, is ambiguous/
one that may always turn bad,
where. everything may always turn into its opposite, where what
one wished to raise up suddenly breaks down and collapses.
And when he has found happiness, he ruins it.
His life is a strange and bitter divorce.
This difference in the interior of the same, which constitutes the
duplicity of the best and of the eris that aims towards it, is that
which necessitates sacrifice: as the recollection of its ambiguous
condition, Greek mortality, that is, Greek politics insofar as it is
tragic, is a culture to the extent that it is a cult - it cultivates the
question of that which, in the best, can become the worst, and, as
such, it takes care of (cultivates) its individuation.
Now, taking care (cura) of individuation is necessitated by the
fact that aiming towards the best is inscribed within technicity,
which is the origin of this individuation process, and as its
(de)fault of 9rigin, but as a fault that is necessa_ry [un defaut qu'il
(aut]. This is why Prometheus is the tragic god par excellence, as
Deleuze too underlines in relation to Nietzsche,
and all Greek
sacrificial practice is a recollection of the conflict between the
Titans and the Olympians, between Prometheus and Zeus, which
happens also to be the origin of mortals- as recounted by Hesiod
at the end of the eighth century BCE, by Aeschylus at the beginning
of the fifth century, and by Plato, through Protagoras, at the begin-
ning of rhe fourth.
In other words, the question of war is inevitably contained
within the question of technics: the technical tool is above all
an organ of predation and defence. Technicity, as a system
[systeme], constitutes the artificial and social system [dispositifJ
of predation and defence from the beginning of humanity. As
such, all ars is the art of war. And yet, in this worst lies also the
best: this art, this tekhne, is also that which permits, and as
Belief and Politics
the possibility of eris, the trans-formation of the struggle for life
into a socialization establishing a peace. That is, also, into a super-
egoization,17 which is a sublimation of the libidinal economy, and
which we refer to, with Valery, as a spiritual economy.
All this, however, only arises as the result of a care, a cult, a
cure a culture perpetually dedicated to this difference in the inter-
ior the same. This is because the technical system bears within
it a tension, between predatory and defensive instruments on the
one hand, through which humanity makes war with itself, and
through which the individuation process may be ruined (hence the
Greek obsession with stasis, that is, civil war), and, on the other
hand, the potential contained by the technical system to open up
a socialization, insofar as it can .open a space for peace and trust,
that trust which is indispensable to prosperity. As such, the techni-
cal system is the ars, as the condition through which are articu-
lated and disarticulated the tendencies that are founded in the
drives and eris as expression of desire.
Socialization consists in a unifying synchronization that one cah
always also analyse as domination and polemical (eristic) diachro-
nization, wherein singularities are formed as the sublimation of
war - thus as the sublime expression of the worst becoming the
best. Such an analysis demands that we understand the question
of logos as at once the expression of the motive of a one and as
a polemos of the multiple singularities of the Presocratic Greeks,
but also, more generally, this analysis demands that we try to
understand the question of reason - and to understand it anew,
that is, as motive, mobility, design, and beyond ratio, on which
this question has run aground.
And it is also through this question of the technicity of exist-
ence that one must understand the Marxist questions of class
struggle and of the exploitation of man by man: Marx confirms
the irreducible character of war. But this irreducibility does not
mean a vocation for the worst: it must become the horizon of
something better, which Marx calls communism. For all that,
however, a great weakness of Marxist thought, a weakness
aggravated by the misunderstandings that have
Marxism (when, for example, it confuses the proletanat w1th
the working class), has been that it has understood class struggle
as the possible and necessary elimination of one tendency of the
Belief and Politics 53
exteriorization process in which social life consists by another,
contrary tendency. The Marxist thought of struggle then becomes
reactive in the Nietzschean sense: it does not think tragically;
there is within Marxism still something Christian (that is, fot
Nietzsche, Platonic), something that does not want to think tragic-
ally, that is, to think through composition rather than through
6. The technicity of existence, ressentiment
and affirmation as combat
Class struggle appears from that point to constitute a modern
figure of ressentiment, that is, a typical expression of what, for
Nietzsche, it is a matter of overcoming: the epoch of nihilism.
Examining this crucial question is particularly delicate, in that
it is notably entangled in a great confusion that still reigns in the
reception of Nietzsche. This confusion has often, and very para-
doxically, concealed the fact that Nietzsche's thought concerning
nihilism is before anything else that of a permanent combat led
within becoming, and that becoming, in its nihilistic epoch, is
experienced by Nietzsche first of all as a becoming-herdish,
that is, as a mortal threat brought about by the adaptive injunc-
tion and the levelling [egalisation] of all things against exceptions
- that is, against singularities, insofar as these form horizons of
the best.
The ordeal of nihilism is as such that massive weakness that
threatens force, and where becoming is a becoming-weak, a
becoming-base, that is, the becoming-hegemonic of a tendency
that tends to annul, through its mass, the tendency constituting it,
that is, to annul its counter-tendency: nihilism is the name of this
de-composition, and this is what the thought of affirmation
combats. Nietzsche warns his readers: this growth of the desert
shall last two centuries - 'What I relate is the history of the next
two centuries.'
Henceforth, to affirm can only mean to combat.
And this 'advent of nihilism' is that which, concretely expressing
itself as the growth of the industrial world - that is, also, of the
desert, and as the fulfilment [accomplissement] of the capitalist
process, as the grammatization and installation of control societies
- fails to redouble this concretization, that is, fails to overcome it
Belief and Politics
through the invention of a I)ew stage of the psychic and collective
individuation process.
It is a caricature of Nietzsche's thought to turn it into a philoso-
phy of acquiescence to becoming in all its forms, a yes to every-
thing that one must endlessly repeat like a simpleton in the face
of whatever happens t;o transpire. To affirm does not mean to
acquiesce. If weakness is that which reacts against becoming-as-
force, and if Nietzsche is the philosopher who speaks of the need
to struggle for becoming, this is because weakness is a counter-
force in becoming, which, oblivious to becoming, is what makes
it possible to say that weakness is a counter-tendency, because
becoming is double: there is in becoming a becoming-spontaneous
which is a becoming-weak, an automaton that reacts against
becoming-as-force, that is, against becoming-as-future - but that
is also the condition of force.
Becoming-weak is that which wants to change nothing in the
levelling of all things, and it will constitute, Nietzsche prophesies,
'the history of the next two centuries'. In short, this becoming-
weak is what always says yes - like a simpleton. Insofar as it is
that which does not want to change anything, becoming-weak is
either ressentiment par excellence, or that which submits and says
yes to the state of affairs that produces this resentment. Today,
ressentiment- is what is produced, and on a massive scale, by tech-
nical becomjng. What could face up to resentment? This is a
political question, to which any credible response must also have
something to say about the following question: what faces up to
technics insofar as, having today become industrial, that is, tech-
noscientific, it has become the principal source of ressentiment?
As for this second question, to which I will return, let us simply
say for now that, firstly, one must not say that one knows w _ h ~ t
must be done when one doesn't know, and, secondly, that 1t IS
essential that this not-knowing become an object of political
In other words, being political today, which always means
before anything else constituting a political thought, and a thought
that could only ever be a collective intelligence, that is, an intel-
ligence that does not take those to whom it addresses itself to be
simpletons, has the task before any other of publicly posing the
question of the effort that must be made in a situation of not-
Belief and Politics 55
knowing, and that constitutes the task of elaborating the psycho-
social doubling up of that epochal redoubling that is automatically
constituted by computational technology, insofar as it is the final
epoch of grammatization characterizing Western individuation.
As for the first question (what could face up to ressentiment?),
the essential thing here is to pose in principle that in order to face
up to ressentiment one must not cultivate ressentiment, which is
difficult, because ressentiment engenders resentment. This is one
of ressentiment's most dangerous characteristics, so that, very
often, those who try to oppose resentment sink, lamentably, into
ressentiment. Ressentiment is this 'counter' that it is only possible
to struggle against by affirming before any other consideration
that the only way to encounter an adversary is to understand
better than they do, if at all possible, their adversity - or, at least,
to have some way of understanding one's adversary, however evil
they may be.
Ressentiment is the nihilistic face of a combat that must be led
within becoming, with it, but in order to transform it into a future.
What makes it so difficult for us to understand this and to do
something about it, we who are Nietzsche's heirs, and who find
ourselves in the very heart of this nihilism that was promised for
two centuries through his warning, is the fact that the worst lies
within the best, and conversely- and, consequently, that becoming
is as such a struggle, a combat. The larger question is, therefore:
what must actually be combated, that is, what must one do, after
one recognizes the scourge of ressentiment?
Nietzsche is a tragic thinker and his most powerful thought is
that a tendency only exists as that which constitutes the condition
of its counter-tendency, which it cannot therefore be a matter of
eliminating. But it is just such a drive for elimination that, pre-
cisely, also characterizes ressentiment and, in particular, does so
insofar as it is founded on guilt. Guilt is that which sees a fault
[faute] where there is a flaw [defaut], and thus which does not
want to understand that the flaw is necessary [qu'il (aut le defaut].
The inheritors of the thinking of nihilism caricature its thinker
when, under the pretext that it is necessary to say yes to becoming,
and thus deluding themselves when they believe they escape res-
sentiment and guilt, they leap across two centuries by failing to
see that an historic struggle is underway and in full swing. Such
Belief and Politics
a yes to becoming is so impoverished that it turns precisely into
its because it becomes, through haste, lazy thinking and
a nihilistic indigestion, a yes to becoming-weak, a yes to bec:om-
ing-herdish: it is the very denial qf life, the victory of renunciation,
that is, the victory of what, as far as Nietzsche was concerned,
was most base, and this is one of the most frightening fulfil-
ments of the Nietzschean prophecy that one could imagine - the
adve11t of nihilism laying hold of Nietzsche's thought itself in order
to turn it into nothing more than the bleating of sheep.
Now, wh;1t characterizes the two centuries that for Nietzsche
remained still entirely to come, that he sees coming in his present,
from his epoch, is the fact that the second industrial revolution
takes place, and that it does so as, precisely, the intensification of
industrial becoming. Industrial becoming is what at once brings a
new force, the promise of a future that, after the death of God,
will break with two thousand years of Pauline Platonism and
badly digested Christianity, but that for now takes the form of a
becoming-herdish, that will be for a long time, for two centuries,
the exhausting of this reign, the reign of exhaustion even, that is,
of discredit - wbich means in the first place the death of God: a
becoming-old, a decadence.
It is through the technical becoming that capitalism constitutes
- as the pursuit of the industrial revolution - that this reign of
exhaustion sprea9s, thereby increasing the desert. Nietzsche's
thought is not the delirium of a philologi?t lost in his books and
becoming mad, isolated in his visions: it is the interpretation of
a world undergoing complete transformation, that of its industri-
alization, which will soon lead to the First World War, and it is
an interpretation that calls for the fulfilment of this transfor-
mation, that is, a call to a combat of life against its nihilistic
mortification. To interpret and to transform (all values) here
become the same thing, change meaning, and are not opposed:
this amounts to saying that they are performative. But the
trans-formation in which interpretation as combat henceforth
consists is preceded by transformation in the form of becoming-
spontaneous, to which it is only possible to say yes while trans-
forming this precisely through a performative (combative)
interpretation of that which, in this spontaneity, also and auto-
matically entails becoming-herdish.
Belief and Politics 57
In this automatic tqmsformation of the world that is industri-
alization, technics i$ therefore and always the instrument of a
struggle, of which war is the extreme version, but that also pro-
ceeds more stealthily and silently dudng peacetime, when nihilism
tends, as becoming-herdish, to stifle its counter-tendency, that is,
to decompose becoming. To fail to see this is to hypostasize this
becoming, as if it were only a matter of a simple unity, that is,
finally, as if becoming was merely the movement of being, was
merely being in time. Now, what Nietzsche thinks under this name
of becoming is a process, that process of individuation of which
Simondon, i11 the twentieth century, takes up the torch.
In short, Marxist nihilism may wish to oppose, as class struggle,
'good' and 'bad' tendencies, it being a matter of eliminating the
latter, bt,tt it is also true that the reception of Nietzsche itself
hypostasizes becomiqg and makes it return to being: it deifies it,
idolizes it, or idealizes it, as something good in itself. And in doing
so it the fact that, for Nietzsche more than for any other
thinker, a force exists only in its relation to another force, and
that becom,in.g is always already divided. Becoming is intrinsically
duplicitous [duplice], and its law is that of struggle. The yes is not
acquiescent, and affirmation is not a 'letting be' that then turns
into .a letting go. To affirm is to combat- weakness, debasement,
disbanding and renunciation of life.
The theatre of this individuation struggling for and against itself
- for Nietzsche, as for Simondon in his analysis of becoming-
proktarian as loss of individuation, and as for us who know the
hyper-in.dustrial age -is capitalism. Capitalism must go to the end
of its process, and we remain utterly ignorant about the way this
will tl.].rn out. On the other hand, we can describe this process and
what, in it, threatens to brutally interrupt it. This process is the
expression of becoming insofar as it is always duplicitous, that is,
tragic - and what I here call combat is less the class struggle than
it is the struggle between tendencies.
These are the figures - proper to the capitalist age, and to that
epoch of capitalism that I call hyper-industrial - of what consti-
tutes the entire process of psychic and collective individuation. But
in the course of all that which, via capitalism, leads grammatiza-
tion from its mechanized stage and into the digital and computa-
tional stage o control technologies, these tendencies play out to
-! ''J
I t
58 Belief and Politics
their extremes. And this capitalist extremism, manifested in all
those extremisms engendered by capitalism, calls for a specific
critique, one that presupposes a thought of technics, but one that
would also be a critique of metaphysics on the grounds that it is
a blockage rendering unthinkable the originary technicity of the
individuation process.
7. Opposition, composition and decomposition
in the play of the world
One of Nietzsche's most valuable contributions to the critique of
metaphysics was his genealogy of guilt, insofar as guilt is a meta-
.physics that breaks with the tragic spirit by always and everywhere
seeking the guilty, by opposing good and evil. It is necessary, in
combat, for adversaries to oppose one another, but each of these
adversaries is the representative [porte-parole], for their side, of a
tendency that it cannot be a matter of eliminating, yet with which
one must struggle. And adversaries represent, through their strug-
gle, what Nietzsche himself called eris, or 'good discord', which
is indeed an opposition, but which is also the way in which those
tendencies represented by these adversaries com-pose a process,
posing together, and one against the other, that process of which
combat would be only a part, or rather, a stage: a stage of an
individuation. Opposition, as the play of forces, plays out a more
elementary composition, involving what Simondon called the
phase difference [dephasage] inherent to the process of individu-
ation and it is for this reason that it cannot be a matter of seeking
in the adversary an enemy who would be the cause of evil, or evil
itself: the enemy is only the representative, the support or the
vector of a tendency - it is a phase of a course, of a current which
is in essence multiphase, just as the flow of a river is comprised
of eddies that produce the current and that, as such, determine its
course. That the force represented by an adversary tends to make
itself hegemonic is inevitable: the force that the adversary repre-
sents dominates it, and the adversary defends it with the certainty
of being right. And the adversary has, in fact, their reasons, their
motives: the adversary, too, moves by design.
The critique of the process, and of a stage of the process, does
not consist, therefore, in condemning the guilty, but in analysing
Belief and Politics
the of the process, those limits which mean that while it is
possible for a to effectively become hegemonic, this
also It

or, as Jacques Derrida

p.uts It, auto-Immune: the temptatiOn always remains, on both
of a?y .adversity over which a! struggle occurs, to purely and
the adversary, but this could only consist in
ehmmatmg oneself, given that combat can only take place and be
pursued to the degree that it permits the continuation [se pour-
suivre] of the play of forces. Now, these are the stakes: that
combat .continues. The stakes involved here are whether this
co.mbat Is able to resume: combat is a game. And the stakes of
this game. the .elevation of adversaries from their opposition,
an .opp?sltwn Which masks a more profoimd composition and
which pursuit of individuation operating through
party. the game, and a pursuit that is therefore never reduc-
Ible, m Its essence, to a single party.
In. thi.s case, the play of forces without doubt refers to a game
that Is SI?gularly complex: it is the play of the world as a process
of psychic collective individuation, in which the composition
of. te?dencies IS the effect of this tension lying within life itself of
this within an.d of this phase difference
dered by techmcity. That Is to say, this is the role played by
the trace, by :death' that 'seizes life', that heritage genealogically
accumulated m form of what I have called epiphylogenesis
the capitalization of the experience of
dants m the hfe of descendants, and where it must be understood
this. does not cease transforming itself. This
IS what IS constituted as a technical system, and this is itself an
of a process of individuation, that individuates itself too
wuhm. play of forces. It is in this way that the play of the
world Is smgularly complex: within it, more than two forces play
themselves out.
.Now, the individuation of the technical system constitutes a
third system, and this is what does not cease to change the rules
of the play of forces. The rules of the play of the world ceaselessly
find themselves challenged and, as such, produce epochs and regu-
larly become outdated [revalues]. Such is the play of permanent
that is, of the eternal return of the same stake: to raise
ztself, to go further in the composition of forces, so that, within
Belief and Politics
that process of individuation that a this
process can be discovered, the. posstbtl_ttY of of
the process through the invent10n whtch are
incalculable projections of the openmg of thts. play,
of that which, in itself, plays itself out as the mdetermmatton of
the future, the impro.bability of the future as the worst and the
best. Such is eris.
The constant of this game is the technicity of existence: from
erectus until ourselves, passing through Lascaux, the com-
position of technics with life that we are, as composition ?f death
and life, constitutes this process of constant transformat10n that
is psycho-social individuation,
in_sofar. as the doubly epokhal
redoubling of technics is the pursutt of hfe by other tha?
life. The technicity of existence is the constant of the
abies are the ways that this composition translates ttself
systems of technical organs, into social organizations, and
psychic organizations.
In the West, these are expressed m
pairs which can be seen as oppositi_ons, but whtch are more
profoundly compositions: (the tragtc age), soul/
body (Christianity), capitaVlabour (capttahsm). . .
Today, however, it is the very possibility ?f of
the game which makes us question, and whtch ts called mto
tion. And there is no doubt that this fact is posed before us With
the of terrifying evidence. While technical power exceeds all
measure so too the expressions of the death-drive and the renun-
ciations' of life multiply themselves, to the point that life has
become herdish nihilism, self-destructive transgressio?-
a l'acte] or stupefied if not stupid passivity - that Is, restgned
Thus plays out the decomposition of_ forces - 'thus',
that is, through grarnmatization as the of
behaviour, the hyper-synchronization of
and through psycho-social disindividuation, as mdivtduahttes m
general, the I and the we that we a_re, disindividuate_ themselves
in becoming the they of the herd whtch consumes: Thts
tion [consommation] is a consumption [co_nsomptton] of
alities notably in the industrial democracies: no longer
any ;ossibility of pursuing individuation, either psychically or
collectively, they no longer believe anything, no longer want any-
thing, and can no longer do anything.
Belief and Politics
. which is the height of the decadence in which
mhtltsm conststs, _fully accomplishes, for the totality of existence,
and beyond subsistence, 1?ss of individuation that initially
took the form, as mechantzatwn, of the proletarianization of
the. worker. This moment reveals the reality lying behind what
recently was still called progress, that is, it reveals the inver-
ston of all belief and, therefore, of all belief in
progress Itself. Hence this progress, in turn, shows itself to be
What had been presented either as belief in the
as force became revolutionary, or else
as behe m capital msofar as this referred to the spread of market
exchange and the C()rrelative extension of consumption within
democracy, now to be the consumption [consommation]
of by Itself, Its consumption [consomption].
collapse in the in progress reveals an immense politi-
cal miscreance and dtsbehe and a catastrophic discredit for
democr_acy, all of which_ does not fail to affect major capitalist
enterpnses themselves, given that it occurs at the same time as all
those involving Enron, Vivendi, Parmalat, Ande,rsen
Consultmg, and so on. It is the spirit of capitalism which thereby
8. The aporia of capitalism
The of the in politics has a history intrinsically tied
to capttahsm, to the mdustrial revolutioq, and to the fall of onto-
theologico-political metaphysics. This history is tied, in other
to the separation of capital and labour; (2) to mecha-
ntzatwn msofar as it permits this separation to spread (this is the
pr_oletarianization of producers); and (3) to the reconciliation of
technics, which becomes technoscience and permanent
The end of as the discourse on being,
which 1s. also the of theologico-political individuation, occurs
when begms to explore the possibilities of becoming, in
becommg and permaqent innovation under the pres-
of capital mvestment, or, in other words, according to selec-
from possibilities, selections determined according to
the of that is, submitted to the hege-
mony of subststence cntena. That is what Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche
62 Belief and Politics
and Freud analysed, each in their own way, as the death of
God. This becoming, that presents itself in the first place as prog-
ress, separates capital and labour by inveSting in machinery,
enabling the formalization and exteriorization of the processes of
production, that is, the grammatization of the production process,
and, thereby, the massification of labour and the reduction of
production costs. This is how the figure of the proletarian comes
to be drawn.
As I have frequently recalled, Simondon analyses the proletari-
anization of work as a loss of individuation, where the worker,
who was once the technical individual, becomes the servant of the
tool-bearing machine, which becomes the new technical individ-
ual. Thus the reality of proletarianization is, more than pauperiza-
tion, the worker's loss of knowledge, the worker tending to become
unskilled pure labour force - and lacking any motive to work
beyond the need to subsist. In this way, the worker [ouvrier]
becomes a proletarian, which also means that the proletarian
ceases to be a worker [ouvrier]: the industrial revolution trans-
forms the workers of the world [ ouvreurs de monde] into proletar-
ians, those who had been, in their way, workers insofar as they
operated with their work-hands [mains d'oeuvres - manual
labour], labourers [travailleurs] and producers of work in general.
In the twentieth century, however, mnemo-technologies support-
ing the culture and programme industries, mnemo-technologies
that were initially analogical and are today digital, and that took
the form of information and communication technologies, were
implemented on a massive scale, thereby constituting a new stage
of grammatization, and as such a new age of capitalism. This is
how the globalization of capitalism was completed, by imposing
the proletarianization of the consumer- after the earlier separa-
tion of the producer and the consumer that resulted from mecha-
nization. And consumers, in turn, find themselves disindividuated:
just as workers-become-proletarian find themselves deprived of
the capacity to work the world through their work, that is, through
their savoir-faire, so too consumers lose their savoir-vivre insofar
as this means their singular way of being in the world, that is, of
It is in this way that the total proletarian emerges, expropriated
of all knowledge, condemned to a life-without-knowledge, that is,
- ...----
Belief and Politics 63
without savours [saveurs], thrown into an insipid and, at times,
squalid [immonde] world: at the same time economically, symboli-
cally and libidinally immiserated. Just as the proletarianjzation of
the is the rationalization of subsistence such th;:tt it ends
in a pure becoming-commodity of labour force, that is, of the
body, so too the proletarianization of consumers is the rationaliza-
tion of ex_istence as the becoming"commodity of consciousness,
which is to say, as well, the reduction of consumers to subsistence
conditions and the annihilation of their existence: this is what the
Le Lay affai'r demonstrates. It is a matter of controlling the behav-
iour of bodies insofar as they consume and in order that they
consume, and, as such, the times of consciousness become audi-
ences constituting a new commodity. Obviously consciousnesses
do not sell themselves on the market of that is
done by brokers in buying power who furnish to investors access
to these consciousnesses, in order that they may conform to behav-
ioural standards permitting the reduction of the diversity of exis-
tences to calculable and therefore manageable particularities of a
set of customers, segmented by niche marketing.
The proletarianization of consumption is the response of the
capitalist process to the tendency, induced by productivity gains,
for the rate of profit to decline: capital henceforth increases its
profit margins mainly by extending markets, which becomes
the motor of planetarization, as units of production become delo-
calized. This means an ever-increasing circulation and deterritori-
alization, concretized through the intermediary of digitalization
and the convergence of information and communication tech-
nologies, constituting a planetary grammatization of behaviour,
of production as well as consumption, that is, a planetary dis-
existentialization of the gestures of work or, in other words, a
planetary loss of savoir-faire, and constituting as well a particular-
ization of existence inducing a planetary loss of savoir-vivre, that
is, a planetary loss of individuation, a generalization of the process
of proletarianization to all modes of existence and subsistence.
This is also the implementation of a planetary process of adop-
tion, driven by the capturing, harnessing and rational channelling
of libido. Now, there is also a tendency for libidinal energy to
decline: a liquidation of singularity (of savoir-faire and savoir-
vivre) that contradicts the constitution of desire. But this is not
I '
64 Belief and Politics
simply a new example of the 'contradictions' of capitalism. It
involves an aporia lying within hyper-industrial capitalism itself,
insofar as the question is no longer only economic: it is the spirit
of capitalism, and its rationality, that is, its reason, that here
encounters its own limits insofar as it becomes self-destructive.
Reason, understood by the spirit of capitalism as ratio and
rationalization, that is, as reckoning [comput] and rational
accounting [comptabilite rationnelle] (as shown, notably, by
Weber), tends to destroy the motives for producing as well as
consuming. Such is the catastrophe of the industrial democracies,
at the end of a long history of training [dressage), a long history
of attempts to incite increased labour and then to incite increased
consumption. Weber described the earliest forms of such attempts,
taking place at the origins of pre-industrial capitalism ana through-
out the course of the eighteenth century, yet Weber never managed
to grasp the question of consumption. Nor did Marx, whose
causal models Weber nevertheless contests, by opening the ques-
tion of a spirit defined as trust, and where trust is understood as
9. 'Remember, that credit is money.' The spirit of
capitalism as the calculability of service to God and
the measurability of occupied time (or negotium), or,
the birth of capitalism as the accountability of time
In order to develop his analysis of the constitution of the spirit of
capitalism as Beruf, that is, as both profession in the sense of a
profession of faith, and as 'vocation for making money' ('the
capitalistic system so needs this devotion to the calling of making
), Weber recalls that workers, as soon as their salaries
increase, work less - they prefer to take their time:
A man does not 'by nature' wish to earn more and more money,
but simply to live as he is accustomed to live and to earn as much
as is necessary for that purpose.
If one cannot strictly say that the worker who works [ouvre]
is, through his work, directly turned towards his free and social
-...,., ____ _
Belief and Politics 65
time (what had, ih an earlier age, been called otium), then we can
nevertheless at least say that such a worker is predisposed to do
so, that he is predisposed to grab hold of time on the grounds that
it is his time, and to do so insofar as, although he is a producer
dedicated to subsistence, he is also someone who exists. Work
must not be opposed here to rest: they must be distinguished, but
in order to understand in what way they are composed, to under-
stand the way in which work can echo what is given in rest, that
is, outside the cares solely of subsisting- even if Weber's examples
are very diverse: the situation of day labourers who sell their
labour force each morning for the harvest is very different from
that of the weavers who work to order and who are able to work
from their own homes.
This time of existence is a gift of time when, in otium, as care,
cura, it consists in practices free of all the worries of subsistence,
free of all negotium. The worker certainly does not belong to the
sphere of clerics who, alone, have the privilege of acceding prop-
erly to otium, in that they are in principle emancipated from the
necessity of the needy (those needy alienated by and in negotium),
that is, from the preoccupation with need - negotium, which, as
ethos of capitalism, becomes on the contrary the vocation (Beruf)
for business, the business of subsistence as model of life. But the
worker, yet to be totally proletarianized and pauperized, even
though he is indeed alienated by his obsession with need, neverthe-
less participates in the sphere of otium (and does so insofar as he
believes) when he submits himself to the rituals of that cult of
which the clerics are in charge.
Now, Weber shows how capitalism, in its pre-industrial phase
and as the 'spirit' issuing from the Reformation, and therefore as
a mutation of Christianity - a mutation in which one cannot
ignore the context constituted by the advent of printing, which is
therefore also the advent of a new era of grammatization
- is
that which reads from the question of belief, wholly inscribed
within a tradition, to that of trust [confiance], a trust required by
what then appears, which is the process of innovation, and such
that it presupposes a rupture with tradition, precisely insofar as
it is the legacy of belief. Innovation may indeed characterize capi-
talism, Weber says, but the spirit of this capitalism does not
amount to the lure of gaining a reward, but rather to the vocation
. ~
1 I
. "
'' ,,
'I I
II ''
Belief and Politics
of making money in order to facilitate the development of business
- that is, negotium - to the point of extending its imperatives to
every dimension of existence: to the point of annulling this exis-
tence itself. But this extremity will only be reached much later,
after Weber himself, when the culture and programming industries
pursue and extend the movement described by the spirit of capital-
ism, causing it to mutate - Weber, having no experience of the
culture industry, is as unaware of this as Freud will be in his turn.
Capitalism is therefore before anything else a new state of mind
[etat d'esprit] about business, leading to a mutation of the ques-
tion of belief in the Western process of psycho"social individua-
tion, the conditions of which capitalism thus redefines. According
to Weber, this new state of mind comes from a turning point in
Christian thought, Protestantism, that itself constitutes a transfor-
mation of belief and of the modalities of its expression, of its
practice and of its individuation within the circle of the faithful.
But with capitalism, this mutation in religious spirit leads to a
rationalization that, itself, eventually clashes with this religious
spirit as belief.
Benjamin Franklin, the official printer for the state of
Pennsylvania, and whose father was a Calvinist, was for Weber
the ideal type constituting the face of that new spirit that formed
as capitalism emerged from its pre-industrial phase. Weber analy-
ses various texts, called 'sermons', the earliest of which date from
1732. The Calvinist heritage consists in the doctrine that believes
in the fulfilment of one's duty through- worldly business [ affaires
temporelles] (in negotium), and such is already the spirit of the
Reformation that, advocating 'asceticism in the world', denies in
principle all difference between otium and negotium. This is trans-
lated by Franklin into the first commandment that time is money
- which means first of all that service to God becomes calculable
and rational in this sense: one can establish ratios, according to
the sense in which accountants use this word.
Belief is transformed into credit obtained through trust insofar
as it is itself calculable and measures occupied time (negotium):
Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day
by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day,
Belief and Politics
though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness,
ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or
rather thrown away, five shillings besides.
Remember, that credit is money.
It is, indeed, very much a matter of accounting: time becomes
entirely accountable; and belief must become a credit such that it
constitutes a relation [rapport], but a relation that brings in [rap-
porte], that is, that makes money proliferate as
... that which amounts to a considerable sum where a man has
good and large credit, and makes good use of it.
This amounts to a very profound transformation of motivation
that is, of reason: motivation as Beruf, profession (in the old s e n s ~
of the word) or vocatjon, essentially translatable and measurable
in terms of pecuniary gain, and as a consequence essentially cal-
culable. It involves, as well, a new system of value where every-
thing is equalized by the general equivalence that is money insofar
as it is the possibility of reckoning without end [ comput sans
reste], without exception, and that prepares what Nietzsche will
call the advent of nihilism:
He that kills a breeding-sow, destroys all her offspring to the thou-
sandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it
might have produced, evep scores of pounds.
Here, idleness is denounced as that through which time, escaping
from business, is irremediably lost. Nothing can any longer escape
negotium. This is how the culture industries extend functional
efficacy to 'leisure' itself, by proletarianizing extra-productive
existence, and by inventing, at the beginning of the twentieth
century, and in the United States, the figure of the consumer. In
the eighteenth century, however, and as Franklin explains, the
spread of the imperatives of negotium in the new ethos evaluated
friendship as a new sociability where trust became the calculable
bond that substituted itself, at least in the world of entrepreneurs
for belief: '
. '
I "
~ I Jl
68 Belief and Politics
He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time
he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the
money his friends can spare. The oqe who is known to pay punctu-
ally and exactly on the promised date, can at any moment and in
any circumstance procure money for himself that his friends have
saved [ ... ] never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time
you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend's purse
for ever.
It is not here simply a matter of 'business sense', but rather, Weber
emphasizes, of an ethic, and:
The infraction of its rules is treated not as foolishness but as for-
getfulness of duty. That is the essence of the matter.
The circumstance that he ascribes his recognition of the utility of
virtue to a divine revelation, which was intended to lead him in the
path of righteousness, shows that something more than mere gar-
nishing for purely egocentric motives is involved.
And this is also the appearance of a new figure of the will to power,
a figure who takes
acquisition as the ultimate purpose of his life. Economic acquisition
is no longer subordinated to man as the means for the satisfaction
of his material needs.
Nevertheless, as we have already seen, it is not man's nature to
seek to make money. It will therefore be, rather, a matter of train-
ing in this new vocation, this new Beruf.
Labour must, on the contrary, be performed as if it were an abso-
lute end in itself, a vocation (Beruf). But such a state of mind is by
no means a product of nature [ ... ] but can only be the product of
a long and arduous process of education.
One of the pathways of this training is pauperization:
Another obvious possibi'!ity, to return to our example, since tpe
appeal to the acquisitive instinct through higher wage-rates failed,
would have been to try the opposite policy, to force the worker by
Belief and Politics
reduction of his wage-rates to work harder to earn the same amount
that he did before.
Don't people ol}Jy work because and so long as they are poor?
But the real question lies elsewhere: it is principally a matter of
substituting for a way of life inherited from tradition a new
process of adoption resting on the organization of society around
the spirit of enterprise, such that it will never cease innovating,
first of all through the organization of the relation between pro-
duction and customer, and, much later (but Weber does not analyse
this period, even though he evokes it in the introduction
), through
the development of technology and mechanization. Now, it is with
this question of innovation, and of the permanent transformation
of social relations that it constitutes, that trust is configured insofar
as it is substituted for belief .
10. The institution of 'absolute trust' in innovation
as the liquidation of belief
Weber compares the spirit of an industrialist - who employs
home-workers and who therefore seems to be a capitalist to the
extent that his capital is invested in the work of others - with the
new kind of entrepreneur who bears that spirit which alone char-
acterizes capitalism. In the first case:
The form of organization was in every respect capitalistic; the
entrepreneur's activity was of a purely business character; the use
of capital, turned over in the business, was indispensable; and
finally, the objective aspect of the economic process, the book-
keeping, was rational. But it was traditionalistic business, if one
considers the spirit which animated the entrepreneur: the tradi-
tional manner of life, the traditional rate of profit, the traditional
amount of work, the traditional manner of regulating the relation-
ships with labour, and the essentially traditional circle of customers
and the manner of attracting new ones. All these dominated the
conduct of the business, were at the basis, one may say, of the ethos
of this group of business men.
Now at some time this leisureliness was suddenly destroyed, and
often entirely without any essential change in the form of organiza-
tion, such as the transition to a unified factory, to mechanized
.... -
~ :;
11 ~ rf
I "lflj
~ ,,
' '.!..,.
70 Belief and Politics
weaving, etc. What h a p p ~ n e d was, on the contrary, often no more
than this: some young man from one of the putting-out families
went out into the country, carefully chose weavers for his employ,
greatly increased the rigour of his supervision of their work, and
thus turned them from peasants into labourers. On the other
hand, he would begin to change his marketing methods by so
far as possible going directly to the final consumer, would take
the details into his own hands, would personally solicit customers,
visiting them every year, and above all would adapt the quality
of the product to their needs and wishes. At the same time he
began to introduce the principle of low prices and large turnover.
There was repeated what everywhere and always is the result of
such a process of rationalization: those who would not follow suit
had to go out of business. The idyllic state collapsed under the
pressure of a bitter competitive struggle, respectable fortunes were
made, and not let out at interest, but always reinvested in the
The new question of trust - such that it is no longer simply faith,
cultivated and maintained by tradition, but a mutual engagement
[fiance] -a trust in this sense, which results in an 'ethic', that is,
a behaviour submitted to rules of which the efficacy is calculable,
as Franklin's sermons already indicate, is the result of this 'new
state of mind': the goal of this new spirit is to engender an absolute
trust in the innovations of capitalism, in capitalism as the spirit
of innovation. This young entrepreneur forming the ideal type at
the origin of capitalism must:
command the absolutely indispensable confidence of his customers
and workmen. [ ... ] But these are ethical qualities of quite a differ-
ent sort from those adapted to the traditionalism of the past.
Capitalism is an innovation in the modes of production and
consumption that must develop counter to tradition, since it
requires the development of a trust that comes to collide with
belief, and that as such constitutes a sort of Aufklarung. Insofar
as tradition does not move, what maintains this immobility is
belief, that very belief that is in the end destroyed by the trust
sought by Weber's young entrepreneur. For:
Belief and Politics
these innovators [ ... ] grown up in the hard school of life, calculat-
ing and daring at the same time, above all temperate and reliable,
shrewd and completely devoted to their business, [ ... ] the ability
to free oneself from the common tradition, a sort of liberal
Aufklarung, seems likely to be the most suitable basis for such a
man's business success.
In short, the Aufklarung inhedted from philosophy is concretely
expressed as an ethics of calculation, and this amounts to a
destruction of belief through the calculation of trust, something
that can also be seen in Franklin's new concept of friendship as
credit and amortization of existence. This concept of friendship
depends upon the representation to oneself of an ego ideal, which
constitutes this as an epoch of the will to power, such that it will
become the norm that super-egos are constituted through Beruf,
and such that this constitutes a motive to live, a raison d'etre, a
social rationality:
If you ask them what is the meaning of their restless activity, why
they are never satisfied with what they have, thus appearing so
senseless to any purely worldly view of life, they would perhaps
give the answer [ ... ] that business with its continuous work has
become a necessary part of their existence.
These innovators as such resemble the consumer whose exis-
tence is destroyed by consumption and who, in order to compen-
sate for that lack which consumes this existence, is incited to
consume more and more - there is an addiction to this new form
of will to power, which forms the origin of nihilism. Because, as
Weber himself notes, even though he certainly does not lack admir-
ation for these 'innovators', this is:
in fact the only possible motivation, but it at the same time expresses
what is, seen from the view-point of personal happiness, so irra-
tional about this sort of life, where a man exists for the sake of his
business, instead of the reverse.
Now, this irrationality can be dissimulated so long as this other
motor of belief functions, according to which economic expansion
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72 Belief and Politics
is social progress. But given that this expansion must submit pro-
duction and consumption to the same logic of calculation, in the
sense of a levelling [ egalisation] that wears down all possible
motives other than those that are addictive, it inevitably falls into
economic and political decadence: the decadence of the democra-
cies, insofar as they implement an obsolete industrial model. And
this decadence lies particularly .in the fact that this is a model that
severely thwarts human spirit, the spirit of human beings who
exist and are not content merely to subsist. And this thwarting of
spirit begins at the very moment when the capitalist 'innovator'
ushers forth a new spirit consisting in the replacement of existence
by subsistence at every level of society - a replacement that will
only be fully realized in the twentieth century, when the culture
industries succeed in creating generalized proletarianization. Now,
this liquidation of existence leads, precisely, to the opposite of the
intended goal (which is to create trust): this period is in fact char-
acterized by mistrust, a mistrust induced as much by industrial
products, and in particular recent innovations, as by the general-
ized insecurity and discredit that increasingly and in advance
mortgages the business world, that is, negotium, as much as it
does political representation.
This evolution is intrinsic to that new spirit which is nascent
capitalism, the application of calculability to every mode of exis-
tence, an evolution that progressively and completely rearranges
'our political, legal and economic institutions [ ... ] purely as a
result of adaptation',
and that constitutes a struggle for survival
practically incompatible with all religious belief - but also, more
generally, with raising [elevation] insofar as it is an aim and a
practice which desires the incalculability of the one who raises, of
the ancestor [ascendant] and of his authority:
The capitalistic system so needs this devotion to the vocation
(Beruf) of making money, it is an attitude toward material goods
which is so well suited to that system, so intimately bound up with
the conditions of survival in the economic struggle for existence,
that there can to-day no longer be any question of a necessary
connection of that acquisitive manner of life with any single
Weltanschauung. In fact, it no longer needs the support of any
religious forces, and feels the attempts of religion to influence eco-
Belief and Politics
nomic life, insofar as they can still be felt at all, to be as much an
unjustified interference as its regulation by the State. In such cir-
cumstances men's commercial and social interests do tend to deter-
mine their opinions and attitudes. Whoever does not adapt his
manner of life to the conditions of capitalistic success must go
under, or at least cannot rise.
How could this activity, that was previously only the poor side
of an existence the vocation of which was constituted in otium,
how could this necessary side of the life of the needy, those whose
otium also needed negotium, but who nevertheless had not hith-
erto constituted this negotium as the reason of their existence (that
is, of.existence as such, its 'sense'), how could this negotium come
to be reconstituted such that Beruf is formed into an ethic, 'how
could this activity, [until then] at best tolerated by morality, trans-
form itself into a vocation in the sense of Benjamin Franklin?'
It is doubtless not a matter, as Weber emphasizes, of considering
what happened 'in the backwoods of Pennsylvania' as a simple
reflection in the superstructure of a mutation in the infrastructure.
It is a matter of a spiritual mutation that is not a consequence but
on the contrary a cause of the appearance of capitalism, and that
will enable the so-called 'infrastructure' characteristic of industrial
capitalism to appear. What Luther brought into play was the liq-
uidation of that difference and hierarchy that, hitherto, had con-
stituted negotium insofar as it was defined as that which was not
otium. It is doubtless Calvinism more than Lutheranism that con-
cretizes this new spirit, but the initial condition of this spirit of
capitalism derives from Luther's condemnation of monasticism,
from that Luther for whom the evangelical counsels of monastic
life, that is, the turning of the practices of otium into religious
practice, are:
'dictated by the devil.' The monastic life is not only quite devoid
of vaJue as a means of justification before God, but he also looks
upon its renunciation of the duties of this world as the product of
selfishness, withdrawing from temporal obligations.
It might be thought that this transformation seems relatively
minor compared with the evolution of industrial mechanization
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74 Belief and Politics
and technology, and such a thought would be both correct and
incorrect. It would be correct to conclude, as does Weber, that it
is not a matter of a transformation of the means of production,
of machines, of the 'infrastructure'; nor thus of proletarianization,
even if, as we have seen, it is already a matter of pauperiiation.
On the contrary, this ethic of negotium is tied both to accounting
and to the printing of the Bible, making it accessible to all. Weber
does not doubt that the Reformation is as such tied to a state of
grammatization: printing, which constitutes, according to Sylvain
Auroux, the 'second technological revolution'. And he does not
doubt that this new epoch of grammatization constitutes a new
retentional system that will soon be incorporated into the
Protestant Church, and that amounts to a new regime in relation
to hypomnemata. And if this is a matter of regimes of hypomne-
mata, then we must also recall that it is Michel Foucault who
demonstrates the way in which, throughout the Epicurean and
Stoic Roman epochs, and from the dawn of Christianity, the ques-
tion of otium is constituted precisely as monasticism.
11. From the art of living, tekhne tou biou,
to accounting expertise: hypomnemata as technologies
of 'governing the self and others'
An original example of this monasticism:
the Vita Antonii of Athanasius presents the written notation of
actions and thoughts as an indispensable element of the ascetic

This question of asceticism and of its techniques is very old, and
it was for a long time considered indispensable to the acquisition
of the art of living. But this question progressively becomes that
of the practice of writing, the practice of an hypomnesis, that is,
in the language of Plato, of an artificial memory, and here, con-
trary to what the Phaedrus recommends, it is therefore hypomne-
sis that supports a form of apamnesis,
the anamnesis of self:
No technique, no professional skill, can be acquired without exer-
cise; nor can the art of living, tekhne tau biou, be learned without
Belief and Politics
an askesis that should be understood as a training of the self by
oneself. This was one of the traditional principles to which the
Pythagoreans, the Socratics, the Cynics had long attached a great
importance. It seems that, among all the forms taken by this train-
ing (which included abstinences, memorizations, examinations of
conscience, meditations, silence, and listening to others), writing
- the act of writing for oneself and for others - came, rather late,
to play a considerable role.
The hypomnesis that for Plato orthographic wntmg consti-
tutes52 is a particular type of what I call tertiary retention. This
particular type arises out of mnemo-techniques that appear in the
wake of Neolithic sedentarization, sedentarization leading to the
accumulation of surpluses, surpluses of which it was necessary to
keep count, and this inaugurates the process of grammatization
through which the first forms of writing emerge. Grammatization
is in general the production of tertiary retentions permitting sym-
bolic fluxes and flows to be discretized and deposited, that is,
permitting the spatialization of their temporality, notably in
orthothetic forms, that is, permitting there-accessing of engrammed
fluxes without loss of content, and constituting therefore a surety
and security of the archive, that is, also, a belief in the archive,
which then supports the arkhe, that principle of hypomnesic prac-
tice that aims at maintenance and care and, as such, the cult. In
this regard, the religions of the Book are such practices brought
to the social level, and these religious practices have a history, of
which the advent of Luther would constitute one crucial moment.
The discretization of fluxes in which grammatization consists
as a weaving of tertiary ret.entions is always also inevitably the
invention of new fluxes, and the transformation of the temporality
of engrammed fluxes. It is in this way that the technique of the
self that hypomnesis constitutes can, as practice, transform the
self. It is also in this way that printing affects religious practice to
the point of engendering a new Church, Protestantism.
The question of hypomnemata, to again take up Foucault's
orthography, and such as he introduces it here in relation to
monastic practice during the epoch of primitive Christianity,
and thus as the support of the very thing condemned by Luther,
for whom these practices are 'dictated by the Devil' insofar as
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they support a cult of otium, that is, a culture of distance and
difference in relation to negotium - this question of hypomne-
mata which raises the much broader question of tertiary retention
in must be inscribed within the question of technologies
of power studied by Foucault, and this inscription is necessary,
despite the fact that Foucault did not himself succeed in explicitly
doing so.
This is, indeed, here a matter of technologies of the self, that
is, a subjectivation (which is a Foucauldian name for individua-
tion) that is constituted, precisely, outside technologies of power.
Now the technology of hypomnemata is precisely also that of
insofar as writing founds law, a law that is public and
criticizable, and as such political, and founds as well a difference
between fact and law - but it also founds, and much earlier,
accountability. Foucault thus emphasized the importance of
writing, but he questioned neither the Platonic discourse on
hypomnesis and the philosophical and metaphysical occultation
to which it gives rise, nor the ortho-graphic constitutivity of the
polis, that is, the role of grammatization in the process of psychic
and collective individuation giving birth to the West.
On the other hand, Foucault did emphasize that practices of
hypomnemata extend far beyond the ascetic context and the 'cul-
tivated' public:
Hupomnemata, in the technical sense, could be account bool<:s,
public registers, or individual notebooks serving as memory aids.
Their use as books of life, as guides for conduct, seems to have
become a common thing for a whole cultivated public.
'Cultivated' here means living within the practice of otium,
this practice being precisely that of these hypomnemata. The
constituted a material record of things read, heard, or thought. 5
In brief the ascetic practice of hypomnemata involves mnemo-
technic; and is, in this sense, a technology. Now, as orthographic
hypomnesis, this also constitutes social and political power prop-
erly speaking - that is, precisely, as that power that is, first of all,
juridical. (in particular, that profane power of the judge about
Belief and Politics 77
which Hesiod complains to the goddess Dike, because this written
justice harmed him, just as that of Creon will damage Antigone
and Polynices)- but which becomes, later, that technology demand-
ing [revendiquee] that one maintain an individual power over
oneself, the technology of philosophical, then religious, asceticism,
that is, also, the technology of a power to psychically individuate
oneself. (And here, one must insist on the fact that hypomnesis is
already a power, a power that has not been claimed [non revendi-
que] and has even been occluded by all that thinking which con-
stitutes itself as philosophical, and which is in truth a stage and a
significant modality of Western individuation: it is essential to it.
This is what I have attempted to show numerous times, but in
particular in 'How I Became a Philosopher'.
In other words, hypon:memata are technologies of individua-
tion, such that individuation is psychic and collective, that is,
social and political.
In an address delivered in Brazil in 1976, Foucault emphasized
the fact that juridicism, in terms of a theory of power, implied the
idea that power rests on the exercise of interdiction, of the limit,
constituting a conception of power as restrictive - something
Marx had already denied in Book II of Capital. This is the idea
of power from which Foucauldian thought understood itself to
be, precisely, emancipating itself, and to be doing so by analysing
power throughout the range of its technologies:
[O]ne could better develop an analysis of power that would not
simply be a negative juridical conception of power, but a concep-
tion of a technology of power.
[T]he West never had a system for the representation, the formula-
tion and the analysis of power other than law and the system of
law. And I believe that this is the reason for which, when it comes
down to it, we have not had, until recently, other possibilities of
analysing power besides utilizing these elementary, fundamental,
etc., notions that are those of law, of rules, of the sovereign, of the
delegation of power, etc. I believe that it is this juridical conception
of power, this conception of power derived from law and the sov-
ereign, from rule and prohibition, of which we must now rid our-
selves if we want to proceed to an analysis not just of the
representation of power but of the real functioning of power.
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78 Belief and Politics
For all that, what constitutes the real functioning of juridical
power, as well as all the other forms of power, are technologies.
We have just seen, however, that in the ascetic practice of
hypomnemata as well as with juridico-political technology, it is a
matter of an individuation: whether within the city, or outside
it. What this means is that, even from the point of view of the
'juridical conception of power', what must be explored is the
question of the techno-logy in which this juris-diction consists.
And this means that even though we are talking about one and
the same techno-logy of hypomnemata - that is, of the tertiary
retentions engendered by grammatization in its ortho-thetic stage
- this techno-logy nevertheless engenders two distinct modalities
of the one psycho-social individuation, modalities that are only
distinguishable from each other to the degree that they are never-
theless not separable: on the one hand, the juridico-political and
public, but also economic, modality; and, on the other hand, the
psycho-individual modality of the culture of the philosophical or
religious self.
When Foucault, however, speaks about the technology of power,
it applies less to the .techno-logies emerging from grammatization
and from what he himself calls hypomnemata as supports of tech-
niques of the self, than it does to those technologies at the origin
of what he will call disciplinary society- starting from Marx and
from technics in the sense according to which the steam engine
and the rifle are technical. And yet, political technology as such is
defined by Foucault as the domain of technologies of the indi-
vidual and of technologies of the population, which means both
the discretization and particularization and, on the other hand,
the statistical homogenization, of the I and the we: it is a matter
of mnemo-techniques and hypomnesic technologies, which form
systems with architectural technologies, as for example in prisons
and schools, or with instrumental technologies, as with the army
and the rifle, but which constitutes the concrete implementation,
each time historically singular, of the process of grammatization,
which, for us, includes the machine, and which forms systems with
the te.chnical system in general.
While I have el)larged the concept of grammatization so that it
includes mechanized discretization, including the discretization of
gestures in the history of tertiary retention and mnemo-technics
Belief and Politics
- which leads to the digitalization of mnemo-technologicalt
machines strictly speaking, and to what one calls today cognitive
technologies, which for me equally qualify as spiritual techno-
logies - it is also necessary to enlarge, inversely, the technologies
of biopolitical and disciplinary power analysed by Foucault, in
order to include hypomnemata in all their forms, including mecha-
nized forms. And this is what, it seems, Foucault lacked the time
to do, a fact that is all the more strange, given that he did not
cease to practise archivistic technology, which he investigates in
The Order of Things.
As for the technology of the self, Foucault
analyses this in 'Self Writing', which begins in the following way:
These pages are part of a series of studies on 'the arts of oneself '
that is, on the aesthetics of existence and the government of oneself
and of others in the Greco-Roman culture during the first two
centuries of the empire.
It is therefore clear that in 1983 it was also a matter of studying
the government of others - before the death of Foucault, a work
was planned for publication by Seuil, with the title Le Gouvernement
de soi et des autres.
Before returning to the techniques of otium that constitute
specific usages of hypomnemata - in relation to which it is never-
theless necessary to note t h ~ t registers and account-books are also
what capitalist innovators will utilize in order to develop rational
accounting and a new comprehel).s_ion of reason as ratio, the latter
being understood in the accountancy sense - it is necessary to
examine more closely what FQucault wrote about technologies of
power in general.
Technologies of micro-powers exceeding the sphere of juridical
and state power do not aill1 to be interdictive, but are rather aimed
at efficiency and production. These micro-powers undergo a pro-
found mutation at the moment disciplinary societies appear, neces-
sitated by the fact that monarchical power systems were beset by
two major inconvenie[lces. On the one hand, the nets which they
formed were too wide and let through:
an almost infinite number of things, elements, conducts and
Belief and Politics
On the other hand, they were onerous and always proceeded by
'economic subtraction'
which means that they reduced the
speed of economic flow.
Foucault here calls for an enlarged consideration of technology
and argues, in particular, that it not be confined to the steam
engine or even to the tool: it is a matter of identifying techniques
that constitute a political technology, diverse techno-logies consti-
tuting discipline directed first of all towards the control of indi-
viduals, and as such forming a 'political anatomy'. Bentham's
panopticon belongs to this family of political technologies, which
one sees at work in education, in the school as an institution of
training and of the incorporation of discipline into the body of
the pupil, beneath the gaze of the teacher - as the prisoner is
beneath the gaze of the warden. And there are also, then, biopo-
litical technologies, concerning the management of populations,
technologies that did not target individuals as individuals. [ ... ] We
discover that that on which power is exercised is the population
[ ... ], living beings, traversed, commanded, ruled by processes and
biological laws.
One can only underline here the continuity with what market-
ing implements via the culture industries, and again insist on the
convergence between hypomneses and technologies insofar as,
with digitalization, this convergence enables the passage from
disciplinary societies to control societies, which Deleuze will
analyse towards the end of his life. But it is also necessary to
recognize that the capturing, harnessing and exploitation of libidi-
nal energy, for which the culture industries are functional organs,
also involves a rupture: this harnessing of flux is no longer coercive
but voluntary - in the sense that what develops is a voluntary
servitude. The distinction that Deleuze proposes between disci-
plinary and control societies lies, before anything else, in this
rupture. But what must then be shown is whY control society, as
the industrial exploitation of libidinal energies, is inevitably a
society of techniques of desubjectivation, of disihdividuation, and
a society that rapidly exhausts its own viability, reliability [fiabil-
ite], engagement [fiance], trust [confiance] and belief- that which
we already find ourselves in the midst of living.
Belief and Politics
12. The constitution of the self
and European constitution
Now, understanding this means grasping that control technologies
pursue and refine the goals of biopolitical technologies, in order
to make of the population:
a machine for producing, producing riches, goods producing other
individuals. '
And this at the cost of a transformation and eventually a
decompositiOn of the process of psycho-social individuation.
Foucault describes here the becoming-mass that begins even before
t?e revolution, and of which the embryonic stage con-
Sists m the appearance of disciplinary individuation both the
of t?e individual body, and the homog-
emzatwn and of the body of populations as manage-
able ensembles of hvmg human potentials [puissances]: were two great revolutions in the technology of power: the
of discipline and the discovery of the regulation and perfec"
twn of an anatomo-politics and the perfection of a bio-politics.
But it comes to control societies, it is not merely a matter
of makmg the population into a production machine: it is a matter
of making it into a consumer market, and the training involved
becomes that of consumer behaviour - and it is for this reason
that it a matter. of that is, a programmed
dest;uctwn SI?gulanty of Now, in this process,
the bourgeOisie Is Itself progressively absorbed: it is itself desub-
by the very biopolitical technologies it implements. It
Is, m the same stroke, affected in its turn by demotivation, loss of
.and disbelief. It is in this. way that the very idea of the bour-
geOisie, whether 'petty' or 'grand', becomes obsolete after the
annihilation of the nobility. This process concretizes I call
generalized proletarianization, from which there is no longer
any escape: the grammatized retentional milieu that constitutes
the world in general, and that configures mental and affective
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polluted and affects the entire population, just as a Parisian suffers
the toxicity of the atmosphere regardless of his or her social
The biopolitical technologies described by Foucault essentially
control the body, and constitute as such a political anatomy and
a biopolitics of populations. But this is not yet a matter of a
control society, insofar as a control society does 110t only consist
in the installation, throughout society, of social control, but rather
penetrates into consciousness, through which it libidinal
energy and thus reinstantiates corporal control, not only by
harnessing conscious time but by soliciting the unconscious
through the channelling of conscious time, all of which is con-
cretely expressed as a new stage of the grammatization of corporal
behaviour: the stage characterized by the consumer of the hyper-
industrial epoch. And in this regard, between the 'social control'
of magical society, of which myths were the regulatory organs,
but where the body had not yet been denied by opposing it to the
soul, and the social control of 'disenchanted' society, jp which
statistics liquidated belief as the condition of regulation, and
where the body returns as body, as flesh, as labour-force, there is
a rupture that passes precisely through the grammatization of
bodies, of which machines, producing the proletariat, are the
central moment, and around which technologies of power arrange
themselves, as described by Foucault.
Foucault's analysis of biopolitical technologies, however, which
appeared in 1976, failed to establish any relation to the second
technological revolution of grammatization, which conditions the
rationalization described by Weber, and this failure is all the J;llOre
striking given that Foucault speaks precisely of grammatization in
his analysis of hypomnemata in 'Self Writing', dating from 1983.
Now, what he describes in his analysis of the ascetic and, more
precisely, monastic practices of hypomnemata is the way in which
these hypomnesic techno-logies constitute the process of psychic
individuation, which is taken to its limit as ethopoiesis:
[W]riting constitutes an essential stage in the process to which the
whole askesis leads: namely, the fashioning of accepted discourses,
recognized as true, into rational principles of action. As an element
of self-training, writing has, to use an expression that one finds in
Belief and Politics
Plutarch, an ethopoietic function: it is an agent of the transforma-
tion of truth into ethos.
this transformation of the truth is a transformation of the self.
It 1s an individuation (a 'subjectivation'): hypomnesic practices,
which are features of what the Romans called otium, and which
Luther will condemn and Calvin even more so, and after him
Franklin, constitute the soul properly speaking, the psyche, and
must as such
form part of ourselves: in short, the soul must make them not
merely its own but itself.
The final goal of their assembly
is nothing less than the constitution of the self.
It is here a question of constitution_. And here, where one must
pass from psychic individuation to psychic and collective individu-
ation, the question of a politics of hypomnemata necessarily arises,
insofar as this is what makes possible the constitution of the self,
supported by a constitution of the we insofar as this is a properly
political constitution, insofar as this is the foundation of a new
stage of psychic and collective individuation corresponding to its
particular mnemo-technological epoch. This is the level on which
the question of a European constitution must today be posed.
Now, such a constitution must revisit, analyse and overcome
the consequences of what - fl:om Luther to Franklin, and passing
through Calvin - the practice of hypomnemata has turned into
insofar as the practice of the self, and the constitution of the we:
have been essentially reduced to a system of ratio, that is, of
accounting instruments, and to a system of harnessing the libido
aimed precisely at the liquidation of the psychic self, which can
only lead to the liquidation not merely of the political self but
also, and inevitably, of the economic self, that is, to the liquidation
of all trust and all belief.
Monasticism, as epoch of psychic and collective individuation
-collective since religious- was a perpetuated and major (particu-
larly during the Middle Ages) institutionalization of melete,
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84 Belief and Politics
is, of discipline as defined by the Stoics, and of those practices of
otium which then become religious - for both regular and secular
orders, that is, concerning both the clergy and the faithful in
general. Christianity perhaps constituted as such a separation
between the nobility of the conquering warrior and the nobility
of the clergy that combats itself:.... that is, that is turned towards
the possibility of its elevation. This elevation can, certainly, turn
against itself in renouncing life, and what Nietzsche denounces is
precisely this aspect of that institutionalization that consists in
spreading Christianity as a form of popular Platonism, that is, as
metaphysics, leading inevitably to nihilism, and to the massifica-
tion of weakness, while Marx, as is well known, sees in the otium
of the people its opium.
Moreover, otium - as the culture of that of which we must
take care - remains the permanent question of philosophers,
in frequently opposed forms. Montaigne clearly represents a
philosophical resurgence of the question of melete and of its
hypomnemata at the end of the Renaissance. But no philosopher
escapes the question of asceticism, of measure, and of a difference
that requires discussion, culture, 'consciousness' or affirmation -
the question of an unconditioned, of an exception, and of an
other plane, for example of a plane of consistence, in short, of an
'extra-ordinariness' of things that nihilism, however, evens out.
And it is not an accident that the first two great philosophical
movements following the Presocratics, and in that war about
grammatization between philosophy and sophistry during the life
and after the condemnation to death of Socrates, were, before
anything else, schools: places of elevation, places where pupils
were raised.
Nobility and clergy, conquerors and clerics, cultivate elevation
towards the best, the pote11tial of the best, its power, but also its
act - and this difference between potential and act is, precisely,
something to which I shall return: this culture is that of an
aristocracy, everybody else constituting yokels [les manants],
whether they are bourgeois (urban), that is, commoners and
plebeians, or whether they are peasants, that is, serfs. The
advent of Luther constitutes a complete change in this regard. And
beyond this, capitalism, effacing the distinction that it is helpful
to make between subsistence and existence, and, even further,
Belief and Politics 85
generalizing proletarianization, finally absorbs the world of
clerics into its functions and its forces of production just as it
controls all sensible life, by replacing sensible experience of sin-
gularity with the aesthetic conditioning of consumer behaviour.
Now, all this is tied to grammatization, from the Bible that the
Protestant henceforth reads alone within his home, up until the
hyper-cultural industries of the digital age, passing by way of
books and account-books that enable the development of a 'ratio-
nal' negotium.
13. God we belief and trust
in the 'work ethic'
The spirit of capitalism changes the meaning of elevation, of the
desire to raise oneself up: it becomes a 'work ethic', that is, an
ethic of negotium. But this is equally a transformation of the very
idea of culture: this ethic is a new comprehension of culture -
leading to cultural capitalism, which amounts to the pure and
simple liquidation of culture understood as that which dedicates
a cult or as that which cultivates and practises a difference, a dif-
ference that we must make, of which the distinction between
otium and negotium was the great historical figure in Roman
Christianity, but which can already be found in Socratic discourse,
when Socrates speaks of his melete thanatou - of his existence as
learning to die.
With the advent of capitalism, issuing from a new stage of
grammatization, which is also a new epoch of Western
social individuation, we must however adapt to a system that no
longer has any need for support from any religious force, and this
adaptation substitutes for all other motivation the necessity of
what is called the cult of accumulation, that is, of capitalization
as generalized caiculability. Now, such a cult is self-destructive: it
is irrational in the sense that it destroys motives, for which it
substitutes addictions. And this means that the calculation of trust
leads to disbelief and miscreance, and ruins trust itself. The ratio-
nal development of trust - rational understood here as account-
able - leads to the destruction of rational belief, the destruction,
by ratio as particularization of all singularities, of logos under-
stood as motive, that is, also, and I will return to this in the final
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86 Belief and Politics
chapter, of theos, of that which according to Aristotle animates
each soul, as absolute singularity.
The rational development of trust is therefore irrational. This
is the meaning and the final consequence of the absorption of
the practices of hypomnemata - previously devoted to otium as
cult of the absoluteness of the singularity of existence, that is, as
cult of what I characterize as that which constitutes the consis-
tence of existence - into negotium, as efficiency of calculation
rationalizing all layers of existence, such that existence thereby
becomes nothing more than the struggle for survival, reduced to
the busyness of subsistence.
This being so, elevation, as eris, that form of competition [emu-
lation] which in Greek tragedy is turned towards the ariston, is
what, degraded by the ideology of trust [confiance], becomes the
theory of competition [concurrence], conceived no longer as eleva-
tion but as levelling, lowering, as the constitution of trust [in
English]. And hence the game of calculated capitalist trust involves
a new paradox, given that the game of competition is in principle
guaranteed by anti-trust laws. Now, the reality that t,he produc-
tion of trust [in English] as calculated necessarily results in
the trust [in English] as monopoly, tpat is, as entropy: calculation
is that which eliminates all negentropy, all singularity, all opacity,
as Lyotard saw very well. And tr14st [in English],
being substituted for belief [in English], leads inevitably to degra-
dation, to decadence, to the encouragement of equally degraded
and degrading behaviours- in the seQse that, whereas eris desig-
nates competition [concurrence] as co-occur,rence of occurrences,
as the arena [ concours] in which singularities compete in concert,
that is, in the dialogue [concertation] that is this concerted action
in which psycho-social individuation consists (in Simondon's
sense), confidence [confiance] as calculation constitutes trusts
wbich corrode all confidence and all belief and are at the same
We have seen that workers whose pay is increased tend to
requce rather than increase the time they spend labouring, in order
that they might exist within their own free time, rather than
merely survive and subsist. And we have further seen that this
contradicts the. 'spirit of capitalism', and thus that it was necessary
to lower salaries in order to make workers work - and it was for
Belief and Politics
this reason that proletarianization was analysed and understood
essentially as pauperization, which does indeed accompany it in
the nineteenth century. But with Fordism, as a new industrial as
well as political model, the producer becomes, at the beginning of
the twentieth century in the United States, a consumer. Everyone,
or nearly everyone, gaining a salary, this everyone essentially
comes to constitute 'the market'. A new rationality thus appeared,
the expansion of which will be all the more necessary within what
affirms itself as industrial democracy, even though the Great
Depression of the 1930s will appear to be the sudden expression
of the 'contradictions of capitalism'. It is at this moment that
marketing becomes king, and that the process of proletarianiza-
tion of the consumer begins, while at the same time credit begins
to be made available to consumers and not merely to investors.
But this credit is going to irresistibly become 'lifetime value' [in
an investment in the consumer as constituting a life-
time, insofar as they can be sustainably inscribed within the vast
circuit of desubjectivated subsistence, because they are entirely
enslaved .to the subjectivation of an industrial group. The lifetime
of a consumer thus becomes, in turn, a calculable value. This
induces, however, the standardization of savoir-vivre, that is, the
loss of knowledge of how to live, in particular through the service
economy that delegates the consumer's existence to bibles (bibles
being understood here in the managerial sense according to which
they explain precisely how to serve a customer, as, for example,
in fast-food restaurants). This, then, constitutes the stage of gen-
eralized proletarianization, the impoverishment of existence as
well as subsistence, an impoverishment imposed on every indi-
viduality, whether psychic or collective, and where all of these
individualities are faced with a permanent pressure aiming to
particularize and de-singularize them. Now, this situation culmi-
nates by engendering a collapse of reason, if one understands by
'reason' that which constitutes the motive to live of those souls
that Aristotle called 'noetic', and that he also qualified as 'political'
to the degree that they are turned towards and inclined towards
philia. It is this motive that Aristotle named theos: Aristotle is par
excellence the advent of the onto-theologico-political.
Given that the proletarianizing rationalization of the producer
is that which- passing by way of the transformation of logos into
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Belief and Politics
ratio, and as the concrete expression of the 'death of God' - sub-
stitutes for the question of belief that of trust, then it turns out
that it is the dollar bill that expresses the entirety of the thinking
of Benjamin Franklin, that dollar bill on which is inscribed 'In
God we trust', belief having becop1e, according to the sermons of
Franklin, legitimately calculable. Such is the result of this new
state of mind in which consists the development of capitalism as
the permanent invention - literally fascinating - of new modes
of production and consumption that mvst develop counter to
tradition, and that presuppose the developrp.ent of an essentially
calculable trust. This calculable trust collides with belief until,
finally, it collapses in shock: the artificial fabrication of trust has
today become an obsession for the 'managers' and administrators
of the production and consumption apparatus, even though it
is perfectly clear that this fabrication of trust will encounter
the kind of limit that characterizes every addictive situation,
and this encounter is, indeed, sooner or later, inevitable. The more
one confirms the necessity of maintaining trust, the more one
multiplies the artifices, the less trust is in fact established - and
one feels all the more the welling up of a frightening mistrust,
while at the there arise frightening planetary trusts [in
Today (but this begins in the first half of the twentieth century),
the libido, desire in the Freudian sense, and not simply interest in
the Weberian sense, has become the object of calculation with a
view towards systematic exploitation, and this is what makes pos-
sible a third revolution of grammatiiation, after that which opened
the age of the Reformation and of the 'innov:;1tors' studied by
Weber. And at the beginning of the twenty-first century the liqui-
dation of singularities and the resulting tendential destruction of
the libidinal economy, of which everybody has a presentiment,
even if they deny it, il}duces both a complete loss of trust by those
who have been proletarianized, and the calculating and estab-
lished! disbelief and miscreance of the powerful, who become ever
more hegemonic and arrogant. Total proletarianization has as its
counterpart generalized discredit, and this threatens the capitalist
system at its very heart: the rational development of trust leads to
the rational destruction of all belief insofar as this is essential to
any future, which can only ever be indeterminate, singular, excep-

Belief and Politics 89
tional and incalculable - and negentropic at this unique price,
which is beyond measure, an inestimable price, a difference
without possible comparison, without a yardstick, that primordial
excess through which Bataille attempts to think 'general economy',
the necessity of which Nietzsche affirms as the exception counter-
ing the herdish massification inducing the adaptation in which the
reign of nihilism consists. This inestimable price is the condition
of excess, that is, the condition of all economy not enslaved to
immediate subsistence - or, in other words, of all civilization. If
Valery can be found to say that all civilizations are mortal, then
we are in the course of living a new mortality of civilization. But
I have begun this book by posing that this mortality is a catastro-
phe, which means that it must open up a new stage of psycho-
social individuatiQn that it is the task of contemporary political
economy to invent, in accordance with that becoming of hypomne-
mata in which consists contemporary industrial development.
If nihilism, in fact, is this destruction of all belief, that is, also,
of all exception, an event intrinsically tied to the development of
the spirit of capitalism as an accountable consequence of the
second revolution of grammatization, and then tied to the deploy-
ment of industrial mechanization, which is another age of gram-
matization, and which remains entirely to be thought, then, faced
with this event, Nietzsche calls for another belief, as has been
underlined by Marc Crepon:
To what does one say 'yes' when one deliberately renounces all
forms of appropriation? Nietzsche's response is without ambiguity:
one says 'yes' to a new 'belief' .
14. Subsistence, existence and consistence
Nothing in our time is more necessary than a new interrogation
of the theologico-political, since the new question of belief
in politics is not a return to the religious but the return of that
which was suppressed through the death of God, and which,
perhaps, will only become. stronger, with the force of a phantom,
if it is true that when the father is killed he becomes stronger
and returns as a phantom. This is the question of consistence,
insofar as that which does not exist cannot become an object of
90 Belief and Politics
calculation- the question of consistence insofar as it means that
which distinguishes, but does not oppose, motive and ratio. This
is the question of that which, as existence turned towards the
consistent which does not exist, and which, as such, is always
already projected beyond mere subsistence, composes (with) the
One must have had in the poem a number such that it prevents
In other words, it is not only God who, though not existing, con-
sists. It is also art, justice, ideas in general. Justice certainly does
not exist on Earth, and will never exist. Who, however, would
dare to suggest that this idea does not consist, and does not merit
being maintained, and even cultivated in young souls, whom one
raises on this basis, precisely because justice does not exist? Who
would dare to maintain that because, in fact, justice does not exist,
we should therefore renounce the desire for justice? Ideas in
general, and not only the idea of justice, whatever these ideas may
do not exist: they are only made to consist.
There are certainly diverse modalities of the inexistence of
ideas: the idea of the triangle does not 'in exist', that is, does not
consist, in the same way as the idea of the bee, which does not
consist in the same way as God, who does not consist in the same
way as the beautiful, or as the virtuous, which does not consist in
the same way as the French language. If the French language does
not exist any more than the bee, ways of speaking French do exist,
just as bees exist in the plural; however, what two
ways of speaking French from two ways of bemg a bee Is very
different and even incomparable: the way of speaking French is
constituted by its idiomatic difference in relation to other ways,
which is not the case for the bee in relation to other bees, but
rather in relation to other insects. As for God, he does not exist
at all, which does not prevent him from consisting, least in
certain souls. And as for beauty, it is constituted in sttll another
modality, which is what Kant calls reflective judgement - and I
say, in my own language, that it only exists by default: its existence
consists in the very fact that it causes faults or is deficient [fait
defauts]. Of virtue, we must say that it is first defined as the eleva-
Belief and Politics
tion or the nobility of a singularity that is, precisely, incomparable
and, as such, never The triangle, finally, can be said to
constitute a mathematical ideality, which constitutes a world, that
of mathemes, but this world, which does not exist, is nevertheless
within a mode of inexistence completely other than the idea of
God: it founds science.
Such is the force of ideas or, as Freud said, their power. Such is
the power of knowing, of sapidity, sapience - all of which has
been profoundly redistributed since the death of God, and since,
as a consequence, philosophers no longer seek to demonstrate the
proof of his existence. God being dead, the devil is nevertheless
still very much alive, and, as Beruf of the trust [in English] ingest-
ing and eliminating all belief [in English], he risks ruining forever
the ineluctable becoming-industrial of the world.
To put this in another way, ideas are defective [font defaut]. It
is nevertheless and first of all a matter of not demonizing this devil,
which is al'so that force in the play of forces that gives ideas their
force: we need to calculate trust as much as we need to presuppose
belief, belief in the dia-chrony in which singularity consists, and
that is also always turned towards the diabelein that supports all
faith in its bosom, beginning with that faith in oneself that sup-
ports the singular being. But it is a matter of combating the hege-
mony of calculating trust, which is autophagous, and can only
engender discredit. Because if the death of God, that is, the revela-
tion of his inexistence, is not inevitably the nullification of the
question of consistence, then we must nevertheless say that with
the development of the spirit of capitalism, the becoming calcu-
lable of that which projected, as existences (as singularities), con-
sistences (the ideas, knowledges and their powers), this becoming
[devenir], without the future [avenir] with which it is not auto-
matically synonymous, is that which tends to reduce these consis-
tences to ashes: ashes of inexistent and inconsistent subsistences.
To the insipid.
In fact, the difference - which I have not ceased to maintain
here, while nevertheless striving to avoid turning it into an opposi-
tion - between subsistence and existence, presupposes in its turn
a difference between existence and consistence. This is, moreover,
what Heidegger's ontological difference attempts to think, after
the death of God. But Heidegger, like Plato, rejects hypomnesis,
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92 Belief and Politics
and fails to understand what difference the question of care makes
to the practice of hypomnemata - l}e sees nothing of the process
of grammatization; nor even that what he calls Dasein is also a
process of psychic and collective individuation, all of which will
lead him astray when it comes to the question of a people. He is
led back to a metaphysical conception of this difference, making
it into an opposition - the opposition between Besorgen, which
one translates into French as 'preoccupation', that is, negotium,
and Sorge, that is, otium: the opposition between calculated
time and Eigentlichkeit. In brief, with the ontological difference
Heidegger fails to think tertiary retention, through which consis-
tence constitutes itself, as protention, that is, as the temporaliza-
tion in which consists the individuation of that which remains
always to come.
Consistence is, in fact, an archi-protention: what I will call a
collective secondary protention, that projects itself in and from
collective secondary retentions, which will be analysed in the fol-
lowing chapter.
Cultivating the difference between consistence
and existence - this difference being the singular, that is, incom-
parable, and in this sense inexistent, reality (if by existing
one understands calculable) of that difference, itself improbable
(that is, which we do not know how to prove), between existence
and subsistence - cultivating this difference is what the hyper-
industrial control of tertiary retention and, through this process,
the control of individual and collective secondary retention (I shall
return to this), has made impossible.
Because retentional practices alone permit protentional projec-
tions, that is, the satisfaction of desires, like the desire to elevate
oneself in which desire always consists- including desires such as
those for the 'experience of limits', the savagery and delights of
the fall: the fall only procures such a delight as a kind of knowl-
edge that is then preliminary to elevation. Marketing, on the other
hand, substitutes mere usages [in English] for these practices,
usages that aim to use products and with them consumers, to
consume the time through which they consume themselves - this
is what must be combated. Like the hegemony of the restricted
economy, this consumption must be combated, and requires a
general economy/
that is, a political economy that renews the
question of the belief in politics.
Belief and Politics
Now, this presupposes before anything else the critique of 'post-
modern' mythology that, as ideology, has made the consideration
of the question of the relation between otium and negotium impos-
sible. I would therefore now like to turn to the myth of the 'leisure
society', also called 'post-industrial society', a myth that presumes
to declare the disappearance of the proletariat and the advent of
the middle classes, whereas the truth is, on the contrary, that
the control of libidinal energy is devoted to generalized proletari-
anization and the herdish accomplishment of nihilism in hyper-
industrial society.
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The Otium of the People
[A]t an ideological level[ ... ] capitalism will face increasing difficul-
ties, if it does not restore some grounds for hope to those whose
engagement is required for the functioning of the system as a whole.
We call the ideology that justifies engagement in capitalism 'spirit
of capitalism'.
People need powerful moral reasons for rallying to capitalism.
Competitive private enterprise is always deemed more effective and
efficient than non-profit-making organizations (but this is at the
undisclosed price of transforming the art lover, the citizen, the
student, children with respect to their teachers, from recipients of
social services into ... consumers).
Luc Boltanski aQd Eve Chiapello
Ancient, yet still alive, this multicenturied past flows into the
present like the Amazon River pouring into the Atlantic Ocean the
vast flood of its cloudy waters.
Fernand BraudeF
1. Postmodern renunciation and the quantum leap
Decadence is a de-composition of the forces of individuation and
of all the individualities that must compose it, including collective
economic individualities (a corporation, which is a collective eco-
nomic individual, is thus a case of social individuation). In this
proliferous decomposition, ressentiment prevents thinking of the
The Otium of the People 95
composition of forces, and prevents the affirmation of their lack
of unity [defaut d,unite] (and the lack of identity, of calculability,
and of the determination of the individuation that results from it)
as a chance: as a chance within that game that consists in the
pursuit of individuation in metastability. The decomposition of
tendencies is the decomposition of metastability as that which
joins the synchronic and the diachronic. This decomposition
causes the loss of individuation as much as it is its result, so that
what is involved here is a vicious circle: the loss of individuation
results from the hyper-synchronization that follows from the
becoming-hegemonic of the tendency towards synchronization,
that is, from the elimination of that diachrony that is singularity,
and, as the destruction of primordial narcissism, this feeds resent-
ment, which in its turn intensifies decomposition. The explosion
of conflict is everywhere threatening: social conflicts, geopolitical
conflicts, religious conflicts, inter-ethnic conflicts, and so on.
It remains the case that if a thought and practice of the com-
position of forces are more urgent than ever, then it is nevertheless
also the case that to think and act by composition does not mean
renouncing opposing oneself to decomposition. Now, there is,
today, another temptation: at the end of the twentieth century,
reigning 'postmodernism', acting from out of a collapse in the
belief in progress - that is, also, a collapse in the belief in politics
-eventually turned this state of affairs into an historic truth, and
thus got itself mired in a renunciation, with the consequence that
to want to think about the course things were taking came to
appear derisory. The whole world today knows very well, however,
that abandoning things to their course is, within our current situ-
ation, suicidal: the fact that this epoch is decadent means that it
has run its course [revalue], and to not act is to renounce life. This
decadence, however, also means that the epoch is exhausted- that
it stagnates, that it is u,nable to engender its own transformation.
In other words, this means that it requires a jumpstart [sursaut]
- let's say, to remaiv with the language of Simondon, a quantum
leap [un sursaut quantique]. This leap could only be an opposition
to decomposition.
Who, however, still believes in the possibility of such a leap,
who would deny that it is already too late, and that it is futile
to attempt to interrupt the course of things and act out their
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96 The Otium of the People
revolution, that is, to publicly establish the fact that, given that
this course has run its course, it must be a matter of inaugurating
not only a new stage of the process of individuation but in fact
another epoch of individuation, a story that follows on from this
catastrophe by installing a new order of things, or, in brief, the
fact that it is a matter of making this revolution? If it is quite clear
that no one is able to believe in this possibility, it is also quite clear
that only a new belief in this possibility could make it possible,
while the temptation to claim that things must follow their course
up until their final catastrophe, that is, until there is no tomorrow,
induces an unbearable lethargy of thought. It is iJDpossible to
accept such resignation, which is itself a consequence of this
decomposition. The necessary leap opposing it is the question of
will and of belief.
Contrary to a widespread delusion, belief only exists where
there is a will to believe. Belief is that which is maintained and
produced: it is not a given of individual spontaneity. And the will
to believe, which belief presupposes, does not secrete a psychic
subject but a process of psycho-social individuation, characterized
by practices and behavioural controls, a social control that can
also become, as an epoch of the process of adoption that is always
a process of individuation, and through the intermediary of tech-
nologies of grammatization, a control society, no longer contain-
ing anything other than usages. But at this point, and this is my
central thesis, there is no longer any belief in nor possibility of a
pursuit of individuation.
Will has always been conceived as the faculty of a subject, that
is, as an avatar of the metaphysics of representation that has
reigned since the birth of modern philosophy. It has, in other
words, been conceived as an avatar of onto-theologico-political
thought, which is, precisely, a thought incapable of thinking
becoming, since it does not see in becoming anything other than
an accident of being, that is, an illusion. This is the reason that
will has become, in the course of the last few decades, an out-
moded theme, seeming to constitute nothing more than a lure. The
Nietzschean question of nihilism, however, is more profoundly
that of will, and of thinking will after the liquidation of the onto-
theologico-political - of a will to power of which the operational
concept is here, for us, individuation as process. Because, accord-
The Otium of the People
ing to my proposed reading of the Nietzschean question of nihil-
ism, this question of will, which is not at all outmoded, is that
which the de-composition of tendencies, that is, the ruin of indi-
viduation, tends to liquidate, at the precise point where it is a
matter of engaging in combat, of opposing this hegemony, and
of affirming the will to will --' this is what I have named the
quantum leap.
In spite of this, this discourse of the will to will, inspired by
Nietzsche al).d revisited by Simondon, does not merely seem like
an outmoded lure: it appears eminently dangerous. It sounds at
the same time like the discourse on the will and the discourse on
power that was addressed to the German people in 1933. It is for
this reason that we tend to conclude that when philosophy, as
extreme critique of metaphysics, transforms itself into political
thought, whether we are speaking of class struggle, of the will to
power, or of resolution, we can only expect the worst. We are
aware these days that to search for the best leads to the worst
and we therefore fear to act. We know, and have learned, through
books, films, newspapers, and through our own existence, the
Terror of 1793, Stalinism and Nazism. We have seen the greatest
thinkers, and in particular Marx, Nietzsche and Heidegger, either
inspire totalitarian organizations, or allow themselves to be
deluded by such mirages, leading to abominable catastrophes.
Each time, these regimes echo concepts of struggle, of will or of
We have even come to think that 'metaphysics' - in what one
calls metaphysics in the Kantian sense, then in the Heideggerian
sense, and that affects philosophy in its totality, Kant and Heidegger
included - amounts to the loss by philosophy of its object and
even of its way of seeking it, as the Platonic discourse opposing
the sensible and the intelligible, that is, the body and soul, that
is, mortal and immortal, then as the Cartesian discourse of
the will to mastery and possession of nature, then as Hegelian
discourse on the end of history and fulfilment of spirit in the dia-
lectic of will and mastery, but also as philosophy wishing to
establish phenomenology as rigorous science,. or as the propriety
of the proper or authenticity, that is, as Eigentlichkeit. We have
come to think that everything that is diversely yet constantly
metaphysical as the play of oppositions is an historical element
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The Otium of the People
essential to the advent of nihilism, and of what I describe here as
We have therefore lost our trust in thought for action - because
we think, with reason, that an action always passes through
a moment of opposition. We would like to be able to think
without having to act, and to be able to act without having to
think. We would like to think that discourse could justify the
world while having nothing to fear in this world, and that the
world can continue to follow its course while having nothing to
expect of thought or of its discourse that could interrupt or divert
this course.
Unfortunately, the world does not follow its course: it becomes
squalid, un-world [im-monde]. And discourse can no longer justify
.this accumulation of physical and symbolic hideousness [immon-
dices] and of human waste that our planet is in the process of
becoming. Because, today, we also know that the worst more and
more frequently accompanies liberalism, the reach of which has
become irreversibly planetary, and that the worst of liberalism has
direct effects, even in the heart of industrial democracies, as well
as indirect effects, but which are in fact far more unjust, in those
countries that it pillages, against which it makes war, or that it
kills with all kinds of poison and pollution. This new reign of the
worst is, in its final consequences, the reign of disbelief or miscre-
ance in all its forms, including and especially all forms of funda-
mentalism (which is its inverse), whether religious fundamentalism
(which denounces, precisely, the 'unbelievers' [mecreants], and
finds its credit in doing so), or secular fundamentalism (which
denounces this denunciation, but in doing so renounces the ques-
tion of where credit could any longer be found).
2. Passage to the act, will and power
Today, there is nothing worse than to fail to think about action.
Tha( is, also, and in all its forms, and worst, transgression,
the passage to the act; and power [puissance], including, and first
of all, that which the phrase 'will to power' tries to think; and the
difference between act and potential [puissance].
Power, in the analyses I have proposed of the time of existence
and of individuation, is what I have called epiphylogenesis, that
The Otium of the People
is, tekhne as that which supports and transmits pre-individual
milieus inherited by the I and the we, which produce, in other
words, individuations, and of which the act is precisely individu-
ation insofar as it is always at once psychic and collective: insofar
as it is always the composition of the synchronic and the dia-
chronic as tendencies.
Action is always in some way such a passage to the act of a
potential - such a passage: from potential to act - which means
that action is always in some way technical, that is, also, practical.
To think about action is equally, as has long been thought, to think
the relation of theory and practice. But what I must state here,
with Heidegger, as well as with Marx, is that this must mean
thinking theory as practice, and practice as theorein: as contem-
plation. In brief, it is a matter of thinking practice as that which
the Romans called otium.
But it must then be asked: how does technics fit into this
picture? The answer is very clear: technics is that which, through
theory, proceeds from a redoubling of the grammatization of pre-
individual funds, which thus become political, hence a redoubling
of that grammatization that itself constitutes an epochal techno-
logical redoubling.
In brief, theorein is a practice of which the
question and the necessity appear with the hypomnesis that writing
constitutes. And this is why, as we have seen with Foucault, the
culture of the self, that is, precisely, otium, is first of all a practice
of hypomnemata, that is, a technique of the self.
Otium is that which is not negotium: it is that which distin-
guishes itself- it is a distinction. That is, it is the discernment of
a difference - of a difference that only exists to the extent that
one believes in it, and that one only believes to the extent that one
makes it, all of this signifying, more exactly, that the difference is
not and does not become that which is and such as one makes it
except to the extent that one cultivates it, that is, to the extent
that one wants it: one does not contemplate, as theorein, unless
one practises it, unless one makes it be, that is, become, and grow,
and raise itself, rather than 'letting it be'.
As for negotium, this is not simply the commerce of com-
modities (otium being able itself to be a commerce- in particular
a symbolic commerce). Rather, it is human commerce in general,
but insofar as it is submitted in general to the imperative of
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subsistence, and insofar as it can render inaccessible the dignity
of existence. This is commerce as business, thus it is that to which
Heidegger was referring with the term Besorgen, that which,
insofar as it is preoccupation, is in some way remotely controlled
by usages defined in relation to a norm based entirely on the
notion of utility.
The practice of otium is what, since the sixteenth century, is
called in French, culture, as the 'development of the intellectuaJ
faculties through appropriate exercises'. One also speaks of physi-
cal culture and, in the Greek city, of everything that was practised
in the gymnasium as a place of training, that gymnasium the name
of which is preserved in Germanic civilization - and, when one
thinks of this, images spring to mind of the worst, as well as of
the best. Culture is, however, in Greece as in France as in the
Germanic world, the practice of daily repetitive exercises, prac-
tices that constitute a discipline, or what I have called, in restoring
an ancient word, a melete.
The first meaning of all culture is this theoretical practice, and,
like otium, it aims for the best, and is also, therefore, a form of
eris, a culture of ariston - a concern with elevation. This is why
the education of children, children as pupils [eleves] or insofar as
their parents raise them, is an everyday [ ordinaire] and generalized
form of this culture, and this is already a form of otium insofar
as inheriting the authority won by the ascendants is a matter of
yielding a profit, rather than merely a matter of aping one's elders
(because to merely conserve a heritage is already decadent). And
thus we can say that education is an ordinary form of culture, of
otium, even though strictly speaking otium is a practice of that
which is out of the ordinary, of that which is extra-ordinary.
We have seen that elevation can always turn into its contrary
and, as such, as aim, it is cast through elpis, expectation, or that
which I also call protention, which is equally fear: fear of
the worst. In this expectation are contained all the benefits, but
also all the costs: elpis, which is held in Pandora's box, is at the
same time, and for this reason, hope and fear. But it is precisely
for this reason that we have to cultivate it, by taking care of it
through practices that foster trust and hope, for this is the best
guarantee we can have of avoiding the installation of fear- phobos
- fear that inevitably engenders reactivity, resentment, jealousy

The Otium of the People
and stasis, as Hesiod says in both Works and Days and the
3. Political laziness, laziness of the spirit
and 'leisure society'
It is because he is well aware of this, and equally aware of the
fact or what he calls esprit, only survives on the
conditiOn of bemg practical, that in 1939, that tragic year Valery
deplores that: '
all these values, rising and falling, constitute the great stock market
of human affairs. Among them,"the unfortunate value of spirit has
not ceased to fall.
who sixteen years earlier meditated on the disaster of the
W?rld War, when he saw the evidence of the mortality of
here feels that a new and immense European disaster
IS loommg, an even worse disaster- because there is always worse
than the worst. What does this pronouncement of such a disaster.
a by Valery as a fall in spirit value [valeu;
esprtt], give us to thmk today, we, the people living at the turn of
the century, given that in 1939 television did not yet
even exist, and only45 per cent of the French listened to the radio?
And, most importantly, what obligations does this create for us?
Whatever the ans":ers .to these. questions may be, it is not philoso-
phy that causes this disaster: If Nietzsche was able to have been
used by the Nazis, if Heidegger was able to believe for a number
of months that what he called a 'movement' was an occurrence
of his Entschlossenheit, nevertheless the disaster in question is
first all, for Valery, the fact of a general weakness of the spirit
of.w.hich these avatars would merely be cases- and, correlatively,
thi.s Is a matter of a political weakness insofar as it has renounced
a of sfirit or even a political economy of the
spmt. Lets be blunt: It Is a matter of a catastrophic laziness of
thought before the fact that:
a world by spi:it no longer presents to the spirit
the same perspectives and directiOns as before; it poses entirely new
problems and countless enigmas.

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102 The Otium of the People
Such is the case for a new stage of grammatization. And one
cannot in fact separate spirit and world, that is, spirit and politics.
Philosophy, in particular, is essentially a political discourse. And
politics, as a modality of the process of individuation, is essentially
a care taken of spirit, of its culture, that is, of a cult of a difference
that one must know how to make and maintain, that can be for-
gotten, and that, when it is forgotten, leads to the worst. This
difference is what distinguishes elevation from villainy. This is the
sentiment that accompanies the justice (dike) sent by Zeus to
mortals, a sentiment that I have called shame [Ia vergogne] in
translating aidos, and that Deleuze, referring at once to both
Primo Levi and Nietzsche, called shame [Ia honte] - 'the shame
of being human'.
Just as there is- as I will return to in another work, in turning
again to Valery - a new spiritual economy, so there is a politics
of the spirit, or rather, there must be a politics of the spirit, and
this can only be a political economy of a spirit proper to the
current epoch of grammatization- that being the effective reality
of the spirit.
This is the exact way that postmodernism, as an epoch of
renunciation, must be analysed, in term.s of its discourse about
what Jean-Fran<;ois Lyotqrd, after Alain Touraine, believed could
be called 'post-industrial society'. Postmodern society, he said, is
a post-industrial society.
If Lyotard knew, in his unique way, that
the Freudian question of libidinal econOil1Y needed to be reopened,
what he nevertheless failed to see was that the heart of this ques-
tion was the question of col).sumption, and that consumption
constituted a second stage of proletarianization, a stage that Marx
himself had been unable to foresee, lacking any idea of this, or of
the possibility of thinking the question of a libidinal economy.
Lyotard, who In The Posimodern Condition introduced the idea
of a post-industrial age, was unable to continue the thought of
capitalist becoming that he had at least commenced in Libidinal
Economy. Lyotard internalized the ideology of post-industrial
society and of the 'leisure society' in which it is supposed to
consist, and hence also believed in the disappearance of the pro-
letariat and the coming of the epoch of the middle classes, whereas,
on the contrary, the new capitalism, taking hold of computational
technologies (a fact about which The Postmodern Condition con-
The Otium of the People 103
tains analyses that are often magnificent), enlarges th.e concept of
the proletariat, and concretizes it, while unleashing a new process
of the proletarianization of society: this is what leads to hyper-
industrial society.
This will not prevent Lyotard from seeing, in what he designates
as a postmodern condition, a new age of knowledge, such that,
according to my own analyses, destroying the difference that must
be made between otium and negotium (which must be distin-
guished, but without opposing them), an indifferentiation- which
also constitutes what I have called in De Ia misere symbolique 1
the integration of the world of clerics, that is, also, of the practice
of hypomnemata, as mnemo-technics, into the heart of production
- that essentially becomes the, implementation of mnemo-technol-
ogies placed into the service of production as well as of distribu-
tion and consumption, together forming an integrated system, and
constituting the infrastructure (which can no longer be distin-
guished from its superstructure) of a process of proletarianization
henceforth extended to all modes of existence, existence being
essentially submitted to the imperatives of subsistence, and con-
sistence being in this way purely and simply obliterated.
Such is decadence. The fact that Lyotard did not criticize the
ideology of leisure meant that, even though he never ceased to
interrogate capitalism about the relation between time and credit/
he was unable to think the question of belief as a paradox of
4. The 'leisure society', a lure masking the extension
of proletarianization to the consumer
The fable of 'post-industrial society', which has in recent decades
been dominant, has to a great extent seduced political and philo-
sophical thought. According to this fable, that began to be told
after 1968, We have entered into the age of 'free time', that is, into
an individualistic society of leisure. Not only did this fable influ-
ence and undermine 'postmodern' philosophy, but it inspired
social democracies to presume that we had passed from the epoch
of mass labour and mass consumption of the industrial age, into
the time of the middle classes, and to presume that the proletariat
is on the way to disappearing.
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But the proletariat remains very important, firstly because
workers have to a large extent been proletarianized (enslaved to
a mechanized system depriving them of initiative and professional
knowledge), but also because the proletariat has, in fact, increased
in size and, insofar as it names a process, been transformed, such
that it now includes the middle classes insofar as they are consum-
ers, and who are, furthermore, to a large extent pauperized.
Contrary to the cliche that a long tradition of political thought of
Marxist origin has spread, the proletariat has never been reducible
to the working class. The proletarianization of work, as Simondon
reformulates it, is a loss of knowledge, that is, a loss of the capac-
ity to individuate oneself. Moreover, as Daniel Bensai:d has put it,
it is control ofwork-time,
as the implementation of what Foucault
called disciplinary society. At the same time, however, as disindi-
viduation and control of life-time, proletarianization has now
extended well beyond merely the world of production; it charac-
terizes the condition of the consumer. It is this that defines, for
example, the concept of lifetime value.
Speaking (as does the theory of post-industrial society inspiring
postmodern thought) of the development of leisure- in the sense
of time free of all constraint, of 'absolute availability', as the dic-
tionary says - is to fabricate a counter-truth while internalizing,
as it were, the discourse of the culture industries themselves.
Because the function of such 'leisures' is not actually to free indi-
vidual time but, on the contrary, to control it for the purposes of
hyper-massification: these are instruments of a new voluntary
servitude. Produced and organized by the culture and program-
ming industries, these instruments called 'leisures' constitute the
most ordinary, the most quotidian, the most banal, and the most
efficacious organs of control societies. As for control societies,
these are passing into their hyper-industrial epoch, developing into
a cultural and service-based capitalism that, via cowputer technol-
ogy, fabricates every element of our ways of living, transforming
daily life in the sense of its immediate i11terests, standardizing
existences through the means of 'marketing concepts' [in English],
and doing all of this while pursuing the convergence of the audio-
visual, the informational and telecommunications: this is the
American multimedia strategy, the genesis of which was summa-
rized in the first chapter.
The Otium of the People 105
Purportedly 'post-industrial' society has on the contrary become
hyper-industriaf and, in so doing, it has integrated into the process
of proletarianization not only production (that is, subsistence), but
consumption (to which existence tends to be reduced). Just as
workers who submit to serving the mechanical tool lose their
savoir-faire and, through that, their individuality, finding them-
selves thereby reduced to the condition of the proletariat, so too
consumers have today become standardized in their behaviours
by the formatting and artificial fabrication of their desires: they
lose their savoir-vivre, that is, their possibilities of existence. The
possibilities for existing are the possibilities of individuating their
singularity, of projecting it from the pre-individual funds that
constitute the we at the heart of which each one of us exists as an
I, and in which each one of us can only believe to the degree that
we believe in our own individuation. The individuation of this we
and the belief in its possibility is conditioned by the latitudes that
it offers to the Is that constitute it to individuate themselves, that
is, to believe in themselves.
In 'post-industrial' society, purported to be a society 'of leisure'
- leisure being a possible translation for otium ""'" savoir-vivre,
which constitutes the everyday aspects of that which forms the
object of a culture, is replaced by norms substituting brands
[marques] of fashion [modes], to which Mallarme gave consider-
ation in La Derniere Mode, but these are no longer limited, today,
to the acquisition of clothes. The branded consumer internalizes
a pale imitation of 'the representation of the world', which sys-
tematizes a sort of :fashioning of the principal moments of their
'existence' - and 'fashion', thus rethought as brand (branding
those who wear the brand, like an identificatory marker), now
involves everyday products and automobiles and computers, and
even services, in addition to clothes and other finery.
Now, this 'representation of the world', this wanting to be
branded, participating in the loss of individuation, and as a new
stage of proletarianization, is an interruption of making-world -
of the psychic and collective individuation that a world is. It may
be true that an interruption constitutes the potential for a new
epoch, being an epokhe, and that part of fashion's appeal clearly
lies in the fact that it is a seductive force of change, and that this
extends to the wish to be branded, and there is indeed a genuine
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element of enjoyment when the 'middle classes' slip on their gilt
sneakers. Today, however, it is the very possibility of pursuing
individuation that seems suspended, and such a 'representation of
the world' seems to contribute to this decomposition, and to
extend the interruption of the modalities of generalized world-
making to every social milieu, such that we must speak of a
becoming non-world of the world, of a since
this world no longer individuates itself -=- a becoming squalid,
. unworldly [im-monde].
'Rationally' promoted by marketing, the norms of life elabo-
rated by brands are not modes of existence: they conform to new
bibles, such as those we have already mentioned, governing the
way business functions at fast-food restaurants, those bibles to
which franchise-holders must submit to the letter, under pain of
breaking the contract - if not the .process. These are doctrines
without doctors, or clerics, or 'ideologues', all perfectly innocent,
utterly postmodern, and ceaselessly renewed by the need to create
obsolescence and stimulate cycles of consumption, doctrines that
provide an illusion of dynamism and of transforming the world,
a world that is, however, backing into an abyss.
In 1930 Freud wrote that, although endowed by industrial
technologies with divine attributes, 'present-day man does not
feel happy in his godlike character'.
And in 1920, in Group
Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, he analysed the way
in which crowds are tempted to return to the state of being
a horde, inhabited by the death-drive that he had discovered
in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and that he would revisit
a decade later in Civilization and Its Discontents, as totalitar-
ianism, fascism, Nazism and anti-Semitism spread their way across
Europe. Rereading these texts, one can only dread the possibility
that hyper-industrial society may again lead human beings to the
worst extremes - all of these extremisms having been exported
beyond Europe: depriving them of individuality, it leads herds of
beings to lack being [en mal d'etre] and to lack becoming [en
mal de devenir], that is, to lack a future [en defaut d'avenir].
Such inhuman herds will have a greater and greater tendency to
become furious.
Now, the culture industries play here a decisive role. And it is
very strange that, even though Freud speaks of photography; the
The Otium of the People 107
gramophone and the telephone, he invokes neither the radio nor
(and this is even stranger) the cinema, exploited by both Mussolini
and Stalin, and subsequently Hitler, and about which an American
senator had in 1912 already declared that 'trade follows films'.
Nor is Freud able to imagine television, of which the Nazis per-
formed an experimental public broadcast in April 1935. At the
same time, Benjamin analysed what he called 'mass narcissism':
the taking control of these media by totalitarian powers. But
Benjamin did not seem to grasp any more than Freud the func-
tional dimension- in every country, including in the democracies
- of the nascent culture industries. In brief, in the 1930s, those
who felt the coming of the destructive power of the media (and
all power is a destructive force) only saw this as a matter of the
risks posed by totalitarian political movements, rather than seeing
that a decisive transformation of capitalism was being played out,
preparing the way for the liquidation of savoir-vivre and of the
otium that cultivates these media and that they cultivate.
What all this foreshadows is the absorption of the sphere of
clerics into the sphere of production by means of technical trans-
formations, and on this point Lyotard was remarkably lucid: this
is what he called the 'performativity of knowledge' in the post-
modern epoch, that is, the total submission of knowledge to pro-
duction.. It remains the case that, failing to see that the principal
consequence is generalized proletarianization, he failed to identify
its political meaning, and was thus unable to draw any practical
consequence. The reason to undertake philosophy, however, is in
order that practical consequences may indeed be drawn.
5. Capitalism, libidinal economy
and the 'psychological poverty of groups'
Edward Bernays, double nephew of Freud, on the other hand,
did theorize the functional role of what, already in his time,
was being constituted as the culture industry. He exploited the
immense possibilities for behavioural control of what his uncle
called libidinal ec.onomy, and developed 'public relations', tech-
niques of persuasion inspired by theories of the unconscious,
techniques which around 1930 he implemented for cigarette man-
ufacturer Philip Morris- at the very moment when Freud felt that
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108 The Otium of the People
in Europe the death-drive was rising up against civilization. But
this seems to bear no relation to what is taking place in America.
Except for a very strange remark. At first, Freud claims to be
obliged to:
notice the danger of a state of things which might be termed 'the
psychological poverty of groups.' This danger is most threatening
where the bonds of a society are chiefly constituted by the identi-
fication of its members with one another, while individuals of the
leader type do not acquire the importance that should fall to them
in the formation of a group.U
This psychological poverty or immiseration consists in a level-
ling [egalisation]: at the very moment when, in this work, Freud
felt coming the indoctrinated crowds of the 19 3 Os, he also deplored
the levelling that prevents 'certain personalities with the tempera-
ment of leaders' from being able to identify members of society
with one another - there are touches here of Nietzsche on the
advent of nihilism, and these are, indeed, very bizarre. But Freud
then affirms (and the emphasis here is my own) that:
the present cultural state of America would give us a good oppor-
tunity for studying the damage to civilization which is thus to be
feared. But I shall avoid the temptation of entering upon a critique
of American civilization; J do not wish to give an impression of
wanting myself to employ American methods.
It is not until the denunciation by Adorno and Horkheimer of
the 'American way of life' that the function of the culture indus-
tries is truly analysed, apart from the critique of media appearing
from the 1910s with Karl Kraus. It is true that the analysis under-
taken by Adorno and Horkheimer remains supported by a Kantian
conception of schematism (the metaphysical character of which
is precisely demonstrated by industrial becoming
), and that
this prevents the building of a critical project and means the analy-
sis remains to some extent reactive. Nevertheless, Adorno and
Horkheimer were the first to understan-d that the culture industries
form a system with industry in general, the function of which
consists in fabricating and controlling consumer behaviour through
The Otium of the People 109
massifying ways of life, and that in this case the question of a
total power over existence no longer amounts to the question
of Stalinism, or fascism, or Nazism, but rather to that of
After the Second World War, the theory of 'public relations'
became connected to 'research on mobility', with the intention of
absorbing excess production - valued at 40 per cent - at the
moment of the return. of peace, and appealing in turn to the 'sub,
conscious' in order to overcome the difficulties that were encoun-
tered by industrialists in their attempts to push Americans to buy
what their factories could produce. It was a matter of provoking
Americans to adopt new products, just as it was necessary to forge
a culture of adoption of immigrants and by immigrants. These
two processes of adoption had to be reinforced and even inte-
with the objective of consuming constituting the binding
between diverse communities; and brands themselves becoming
supports for identificatory and community projection in this sense:
the concept of the brand as social marker was without doubt
elaborated within the context of this dual dynamic.
France, however, had in the nineteenth century already created
organs the function of which was to facilitate the adoption of
industrial products, with the effect of overturning ways of life,
and hence with the additional function of struggling against
the resistance inevitably provoked by these upheavals: hence the
creation of an information agency by Louis Havas in 1835,
and the creation of a 'publicity' agency by Emile de Girardin in
1836. But we must await the appearance of the culture industries
(cinema and disk) and especially the programme industries (radio
and television) before industrial temporal objects can be devel-
oped. These industries made it possible to intimately control indi-
vidual behaviour, transforming it into mass behaviour - even
though the spectator, isolated in front of his television, in a dif-
ferent way than occurs at the cinema, maintains the illusion of
solitary leisure.
The hyper-industrial sphere extends to all human activities the
compulsive and mimetic behaviour of the consumer, including
all those activities that can be subsumed under the heading 'free
time'. Everything must become consumable - education, culture
and health, as well as washing powder and chewing gum. But the
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110 The Otium of the People
illusion that we must create to install this situation can only prove
to be deceptive, and to provoke frustration, demotivation, dis-
credit, disgust and destructive impulses. Alone in front of my
television, I can always tell myself that I am behaving individually,
but the reality is that I am doing just the same as hundreds of
thousands of viewers who watch the same programme - a fact of
which, deep down, I am well aware. Industrial activity, having
become planetary, aims to achieve gigantic economies of scale, and
therefore, through appropriated technologies, to control and
homogenize behaviour: these technologies are principally the pro-
gramme industries that ensure this function through industrial
temporal objects that are purchased and distributed in order to
harness conscious time, the conscious time of viewers who then
form audiences, and which can be sold to advertising firms. And
this means that idle time, which had been denounced by Benjamin
Franklin, has henceforth become useful: it is integrated into the
'spirit of capitalism' - it has again become money, and one can
calculate its value in the market of audiences. On the other hand,
time is no longer free: it can no longer be devoted to leisure insofar
as this constitutes a culture of the singularity of a time of existence,
devoted to consistences - that is, to ideas, which do not exist, and
which are therefore not calculable - and that amount to the
various forms of otium practised in the course of the history of
Western individuation, and that are the most elevated forms of
this individuation process.
The post-industrial fable not only fails to understand that the
strength of contemporary capitalism stems from the simultaneous
control of production and consumption regulating the activities
of the masses in totality, but rests on the false idea that the indi-
vidual and the group are opposites- and that society has become
'individualistic', whereas it has in fact never been so herdish. The
individual is that which expresses, and as exception, .the power
that the group has to individuate singularities: the fable does not
see that the psychic individual can only be at the heart of a psycho-
social individuation process, where the individuals only individu-
ate themselves insofar as they contribute to social individuation.
This intrinsically collective individuation is only possible because
this individuation is the diachronization of pre-individual funds,
which are, nevertheless, also the initial" synchronic funds adopted
The Otium of the People 111
by singularities that are formed in the process of individuation,
insofar as it is the composition of these tendencies that constitutes
the metastability of its equilibrium. As the suppliers of the 'lei-
sures' of 'post-industrial' society, the programme industries tend
on the contrary to oppose synchrony and diachrony, with the goal
of producing 'hyper-synchronizations, the tendential result of
which is that singular appropriations- that is, diachronic appro-
priations - of the pre-individual funds that programmes consti-
tute, become impossible. And the 'leisure' industry also - in order
to occlude the suffering produced by non-participation, that is,
non-individuation, or else to dazzle while making this at the same
time an object of spectacle and of lure - comes at last to invent
'reality television'.
I have shown elsewhere that all this is the case because the
programme industries exploit the possibilities proper to industrial
temporal objects, through which programme schedules are substi-
tuted for what Andre Leroi-Gourhan called socio-ethnic pro-
grammes: these schedules are conceived such that my lived past
tends to become the same as that of my neighbours, because it
is in this way that our behaviour can become herdish in the
true sense.
6. Culture as transmission of collective
secondary retentions
I have already had several occasions to expound upon the concept
of the industrial temporal object. A new aspect of this definition
must, however, here be brought to light.
Individuation always consists in a selection, in temporal fluxes
which constitute the fabric of my existence, of what I call, after
Husserl, primary retention, that is, of what I retain and that con-
stitutes my present as what comes to pass, which is also that which
passes, and which, as such, becomes my past. That which came
to pass is that which came to me, and what I retain is therefore
that which constitutes the singularity of my experience: what I
retain is not the same as what my neighbours retain. But if
there is a difference between my primary retentions and those
of my neighbours, even when we live through the same event,
this is because we have different experiences: we have previously
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112 The Otium of the People
accumulated differing primary retentions that have meanwhile
become our pasts, that is, arrangements of secondary retentions.
Now, those reteqt!ons that have become secondary then form my
selection criteria, so that I then produce/
by selecting them,
primary retentions that will in their turn become secondary, and
that wilt thereby enrich my experience, that is, my capacity for
selecting new retentions, and so on. This process is nothing other
than that of individuation.
I only think differently from others, I only feel differently from
others, I only desire differently from others, I only see differently
from others - in short, I only exist - because the retentional
process in which I consist is unique, and because this retentional
process is also a protentional process, that is, it is a process that
constitutes horizons of expectation. And that which I retain, from
the temporal flow in which an event that happens to me consists,
is only a retention to the extent that it is a primary selection that
I effect through the use of criteria supplied to me by my past, a
past constituted by secondary retentions that form at the same
time filters and expectations, protentions through which I receive
the present. Elpis is thus constituted through an experience that I
also call epimetheia.
But there are, on the other hand, also secondary retentions
that I inherit even though they are of experiences I have not
tnyself lived, retentions of that which I not lived but that
I have nevertheless adopted: this is the case for everything of
which I have been told, of that into which I have been initiated,
or of that which I have been of that which forms education
and instruction and through which I raise myself above myself,
like a dwarf carried on the shoulders of a giant. Such retentions
are, at once, both secondary - because they have been conceived,
selected, projected and lived by others, and have constituted their
own pasts, from out of their own presents, such as the Elements
of Euclid, or, again, The Remembrance of Things Past- and col-
lective, common, inherited by everyone as the past of everyone.
They constitute a pre-individual fund. This is true of works
[oeuvres], whatever they may be, and it is to the extent that they
are adopted that they open [ ouvrent] something, and that they
consist; but this is equally true of all the words that we employ,
each of which were, once upon a time, forged by a speaker, and
The Otium of the People 113
which, each being as such a secondary retention belonging to a
speaker of a language, have become collective secondary reten-
tions, constituting horizons of expectation common to a group:
they constitute as such, that is, again, as elpis, the pre-individual
funds from which this group individuates itself socially as a we,
but only to the extent that, in it, the Is psychically individuate
Now, such pre-individual funds are therefore woven of the
expectations shaping and configuring secondary and collective
retentions and, for this reason, we must pose that these funds are
constituted by collective secondary protentions. As for these, they
constitute masks, figures, occurrences and supplementary concre-
tions, that is, epiphylogenetics, of what I will henceforth refer to
as archi-protentions,
and that constitute the drive-based funds
[fonds pulsionnel] of the epiphylogenetic living being, insofar as
it constitutes a process of psycho-social individuation linked to
the process of vital individuation proper to its biological root.
Insofar as it permits the ortho-thetic stabilization of these collec-
tive secondary pr:otentions, grammatization makes possible pro-
jections, each time original, of collective protentions, that is, of
advances of individuation, and practices of hypomnemata inscribed
in this register. But more generally, all epiphylogenetic practices
have a projective aspect, through which they open new retentional
and collective horizons. It is for this reason that Husser! could
legitimately see in suryeying and in the polishing of marble sur-
faces practices that, combined with hypomnesic practices for the
notation of geometric reasoning, gave birth to the concepts of
Today, however, the function of the culture and programming
industries is to take control of these processes constituting collec-
tive secondary retentions. This control is achieved by replacing
inherited pre-individual funds with what the culture and program-
ming industries produce, and through this substitution to cause
the adoption of retentional funds conceived according to the needs
of marketing - that is, to make every bit of collective secondary
protention submit to the interests of investment. It does this at the
risk of making totally inaccessible all consistent projections, that
is, all protention of that which, precisely because it does not exist,
consists, and confers to the existent its motive.
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114 The Otium of the People
Hence the production .rnd promotion of 'superficially sketched
images', as Leroi-Gourhan puts it, and which, Rifkin adds, are
collected in American malls as the totality 'of world culture ( ... J
in the form of bits of entertainment to delight and amuse visitors
and stimulate the desire to buy'. The problem is that such funds
cannot form the object of symbolic participation for those who
are thereby distracted from their own individuation (distraction
means at the same time to separate, detach, subtract, divert and
conceal, but also dissuade or make renounce), that is, for those
who thereby lose their possibilities for individuating themselves,
because they are internalizing the collective secondary retentions
produced every day in production studios, in television studios,
and in the artificial living spaces of reality television: produced
and broadcast en masse by a hyper-synchronic broadcast system,
aiming precisely to reduce the differences between primary selec-
tions, that is, to intimately control the process by homogenizing
individual pasts, since these collective secondary retentions no
longer constitute synchronic funds adopted singularly because
transmitted singularly. They ate produced and broadcast in a way
that short-circuits the entire process of transmission that the
ascendants of a social group would otherwise take upon them-
selves, a process constituted outside the of the pro-
gramme schedule itself. Targeted programme segmentation based
on generational differences ends up completely suspending the
authority of ascendants. The programmes of these programme
industries never aim for the elevation of audiences, but on the
contrary are always aiming at levelling al)d equalizing their
audiences, including those generations who, though segmented,
wear the same sneakers, gilded or otherwjse. This is something
of which the French have been aware at least since
Mitterrand privatized the public audiovisual industry without
redefining its role, and since Valery Gi_scard d'Estaing publicly
revealed this privatization project at the same time as he revealed
his talents as an accordionist:
levelling is always a question of
This is why these programmes are not forms of leisure at all.
Leisure is essentially that which makes time free [loisible] for the
one for whom it is leisure. Leisure is that through which someone
is able to make time for themselves (thus, for example, Leibniz
The Otium of the People 115
speaks of writing as permitting the 'examination of everything at
leisure', the examination of the objects that it presents to us and
that .it produces - all those hypomneses supporting our anamne-
ses), which is utterly to the contrary of these industrial temporal
objects and of everything that accompanies them as derived prod-
ucts. Leisure, insofar as it is otium, cultivates the desire for indi-
viduation of the one who practises it, that is, the desire to raise
themselves above themselves, and it is something that never con-
sumes that which remains free- because consuming [consomma-
tion], like consumption [consomption], is an addiction.
elevation constitutes the conquest of the individuation of this
individual, as that which specifies their own singularity through
the experience they have made of the singularity of everything they
encounter by and in their practices of otium.
This is because the singularity of the secondary retentions of an
individual is that which 'pro-tends' or 'pro-duces' his or her pos-
sibility of encountering the singularity of that which happens to
them, and that concretizes itself as the singularity of primary selec-
tions that they effectuate at the moment of the experience of that
which happens - that which happens being thus always an acci-
dent that comes to redistribute in turn the organization of second-
ary retentions acquired anteriorly.
For all that, however, what
happens in this way only happens from out of the fund of collec-
tive secondary retentions which, as heritage, must be interpreted.
In fact, the process of individuation, as primary selection, is always
at the same time:
1. The interpretation of the event that happens.
2. The re-interpretation of the past experience of the individual to
whom it happens, and that happens to them as an individual
experience woven with secondary retentions.
3. The interpretation of the funds of collective secondary reten-
tions and protentions that have been transmitted to the psychic
individual as prejndividual milieu and within the collective
individual, via the ascendants, parents, institutions, books,
works and so on, by which is conquered, as elevation, the pos-
sibility of constituting a singular, individual experience: thus
from language, which is learned and received from ascendants
as collective secondary retentions forming a linguistic system.
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The Otium of the People
But it is the same for all social behaviour. To walk is already to
raise oneself in this sense, and there are styles of walking, gaits,
that, as Marcel Mauss indicated, are already bodily techniques,
that is, social facts. More generally, everything that Bertrand
Gille called the 'other systems', in order to designate social
systems other than the technical system, are woven from such
collective secondary retentions and protentions, themselves
engrammed in the form of traces, of these materializations and
spatializations of past time that I call tertiary retention, and
that forms the epiphylogenetic milieu, that is, the pre-individual
milieu, of psychic and collective individuation.
These engrammes form hypomnemata as supports of cultivated
practices, practices that in theological and aristocratic society
remained the sole privilege of clerics, but that, in democratic
society, must be systematically cultivated and, in particular, culti-
vated from the specific possibilities offered by the digital stage of
the industrial development of grammatization.
7. Otium and negotium
Numerous domains of existence, in fact, necessitate a constant,
conjoined interpretation of collective and individual secondary
retentions, and of the primary selections producing primary reten-
tion, an interpretation often practised in relation to ancestors that
one at times calls masters, and that constitute, as such, practices
properly speaking, that is, cultures -'- ways of cultivating that
which, because it has been raised, tends spontaneously to fall back
into the everydayness [ ordinaire] of things.
Singularity and that which sustains it as that which is raised,
to be able to see from the shoulders of a giant and thereby achieve
a longer and broader view, is what, departing from the ordinary,
is in this sense literally extra-ordinary. And for this reason it must
be ceaselessly protected, reaffirmed, and as such cultivated. This
permanent care is expressed when a mother says to her child that
it is not appropriate to put one's fingers in one's hose: this restraint,
this reserve transmitted to the infant body, is already the metron
that affirms the singularity of life as an existence that is not simply
The Otium of the People 117
the satisfaction of bodily needs, but its elevation towards the desir-
able, lovable and cared-for body. The fact that this metre of
behaviour, inculcating the notion that it is inappropriate to pick
one's nose in front of others, is turned into elementary politeness,
constituting within the polis the banality and everydayness [ ordi"
naire] of existence, is the very thing that means there is an every-
dayness of existence itself, one which forgets that bodily reserve
is as such extra-ordinary- and thus this is an ordinariness that is
irreducible to subsistence behaviour. In order to recall this fact,
specific practices are then cultivated that consist in interpretations
of existence itself, and of the conditions of its elevation - and it
is these that aim for consistences.
Otium is that which constitutes the practice of retentional
systems through which collective secondary retentions are elabo-
rated, selected and transmitted,
and through which, in turn,
protentions are formed. The formation of these protentions always
puts into play the singularity of the one who is taking aim with
these protentions, since this process is always equally informed by
the singularity of their secondary retentions, which are precisely
not collective. Since some retentions and protentions are collec-
tive, however, then even though otium originally characterized the
activities of the nobility, an otium of the people nevertheless
remained, managed through the calendar as moments of syn-
chrony, during which believers must cultivate their faith by prac-
tising their cult, and during which they must also, as it were,
gather [recueillir] their diachrony from out of the heart of this
These practices are always those of a support, of a mnemo-
technics, of an instrument that supports a practical memory. It
is, for example, the practices of the book, that is to say, of the
Bible, or the practices of hypomnemata of the Epicureans, the
Stoics, the Anchorites and the Cenobites, but it is also musical or
poetic practice. All practice, insofar as it is otium, is sustained by
tertiary retention- by secondary retentions objectivated and mate-
rialized, expressed in some material form, and that thus become
transmissible, inheritable and adoptable, at the limit as bodily
techniques, which are materializations in the flesh, something that
is also true of the liturgy (which literally means public service) of
the body of the faithful. This is the way in which the Church,
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118 The Otium of the People
before being the opium of the people, was its otium, and consti-
tuted a salvation of souls insofar as it accorded them a day of rest
giving access to questions of existence and, through that, protect-
ing their existence: existence as elevation towards bringing into
In fact, no society has ever existed that did not contain practices
comparable to what the Roman nobility called otium. No such
society exists, ?Xcept in the West of the industrial democracies
which, taking themselves for post-industrial societies, are submit-
ted to the 'leisure' industries, industries that are in fact the very
negation of leisure, that is, of otium as practice, since these indus-
tries are constituted through the hegemony of imperatives arising
from negotium. Such is their decadence.
Now, the technologies that sustain these industries, as mnemo-
technologies, whether analogue or digital, are tertiary retentions
that, like the alphabet of the nascent polis, support access to the
pre-individual funds of all psychic and collective individuation.
Tertiary retention exists in all human societies. It conditions indi-
viduation, as symbolic sharing [partage], which makes possible
the exteriorization of individual experience in epiphylogenetic
traces. When it becomes industrial, however, tertiary retention
constitutes technologies of control that fundamentally alter sym-
bolic exchange: resting on the opposition of producers and con-
sumers, these technologies make possible the hyper-synchronization
of calculated conscious time, and the decomposition of time itself,
that is, of individuation.
Consciousnesses and the bodies they inhabit as their behaviours
are therefore more and more woven by the same secondary reten-
tions and tend to select the same primary retentions, and hence
to increasingly resemble one another: thus branded, they seem to
have little to say, finding themselves meeting less and 'less often,
and cast instead into their solitude in front qf screens, where
they can devote less and less of their time to leisure - in$ofar
as leisure means time free of all .the constraints dictated by
But this does not mean that leisure time is free of all rule: on
the contrary, there is practice and culture because there is ancestry
and inherited obligations that, far from being the opposite of the
freedom of singular time, are, as pre-individual funds, the condi-
The Otium of the People 119
tion of such freedom. This is what forms itself as - and forms -
consistences. These 'forms', which are however wholly informed
by the material constraints of tertiary retention permitting their
stabilizatiol) and transmission, metastabilize themselves in the
course of forming themselves as a process of psychic and collective
individuation, just as whirlpools morphogenetically maintain
themselves within the current of a river drifting with variations
of flow, temperature and so on - although it is also possible to
direct the course of water into a turbine, which then creates a
mechanical whirlpool, suppressing all those whirlpools that form
merely from the operation of the laws of fluid mechanics. In
certain cases, such fluvial adjustments can create serious environ-
mental disorders. And yet they are rarely useless; they are nearly
always necessary. We must compose. But we must not compose
regardless of the price. We must at times oppose. And in order to
preserve those whirlpools that are individual singularities, without
which no individuation processes could occur, we must oppose
more than ever.
8. Note on Hannah Arendt: otium and vita activa
The separation between otium and negotium that I try to define
not as an opposition but as a distinction, a separation passing
through the epochs of philosophical asceticism and religious ascet-
icism, which constitute synchronizations of the psychic and col-
lective individuation process, for example, as the otium of the
people, and a separation that is maintained in every question
about the difference between the activity of subsistence and activi-
ties of existence- this separation is close to what Hannah Arendt
tried to rethink through the notion, itself also ancient, of vita
activa, although I am unsure whether I fully understand her
intentions. More important, however, is the fact that, on the one
hand, Arendt showed very clearly the way in which this question
is transformed throughout the course of the history of meta-
physics, of the West and of monotheism, and the fact that, on the
other hand, she has the praiseworthy audacity to try to propose
her own redefinition of vita activa, with a gesture that is clearly
quite close to what I myself want to outline here with the notion
of otium.
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120 The Otium of the People
position complex: she wanted to revisit the meaning
of a term around which diverse conceptions of psycho-social
individuation have stratified themselves. Even though Arendt
relied on the analyses of Aristotle, who proposed in principle an
absolute difference between the lives of those confined by their
subsistence needs and those who are free from this confinement,
that is, those who exist in a relation to that which is beautiful,
whether this is the beauty lying within pleasure, or within the
. action in which political life consists, or within the contemplation
of that which is and constitutes the kosmos, she nevertheless dif-
fered from Aristotle insofar as she integrated subsistence into this
vita activa;
With the term vita activa, I propose to designate three fundamental
human activities: labour, work, and action.
The problem here is that work- which, as the object that remains,
constitutes the world as such - is according to Arendt completely
foreign to action, which is
the only activity that goes on directly between men without the
intermediary of things or matter.
And here, I believe, she ignored the role of tertiary retention and
of grammatization, and, more generally, of epiphylogenesis as the
condition of access to pre-individual funds without which there
can be no action. The same problem arises when she says (and
Jiirgen Habermas will prolong this gesture):
Wherever the relevance of speech is at stake, matters become
political by definition, for speech is what makes man a political
Now, if language is political, this is because it is a matter of epi-
phylogenesis, of which it is merely a modality. And, as well, it is
the tertiary inscription of language that confers upon it its politi-
cality, as for instance with the law to which one can refer because
it has objectivated the time of discourse by spatializing it - in the
form of hypomnemata.
The Otium of the People 121
The importance that Arendt accorded to birth and to the 'new-
comer' amounts to the capacity for rupture lying within the process
of psychic and collective individuation. Now, this is related to
action properly speaking:
[T]he newcomer possesses the capacity of beginning something
anew, that is, of acting.
As such, Arendt came to think much of what I call here the ques-
tion of individuation, and in order to do so she tried to extract
the original meaning of the term 'vita activa', from the concretions
in which it had become sedimented. She thus recalled that, even
though within tradition this term fundamentally derives from the
conflict between Socrates (representative of philosophy) and the
city, it was also a translation into medieval Latin of Aristotle's
'bios politikos'. For Augustine, the term:
as vita negotiosa or actuosa, [ ... ] still reflects its original mean\ng:
a life devoted to public-political matters.
But in this case, it would be a matter of actions the legitimacy of
which derives only from their absolute difference from those
actions necessitated by subsistence. As conceived since Aristotle,
vita activa - as analogue of bios politikos - is not linked to any-
thing, neither to labour nor to work: it is political life insofar as
it is entirely free, and which in practice constitutes as such the
leisure of the free man.
Now, this changes with Christianity, which opposes vita activa
to vita contemplativa, the latter equivalent to bios theoretikos.
Vita contemplativa then surpasses in value, beyond any measure,
all existence, and hence, therefore, all activity, including political
activity. It is in this way that otium comes to be opposed to nego-
tium, understood as interest taken in public affairs in general.
And yet, this is a matter of public interest, not private interest: as
such, this is not negotium in the sense that we have already
encountered, that is, as activity of subsistence, but precisely a
modality of otium as the activity of existence in the city, which is
precisely what Arendt was aiming for with her reinvention of the
term vita activa.

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Nevertheless, on the one hand, otium and negotium come from
the Roman world of E-picureans and Stoics, well before primitive
Christians, and, on the other hand, the opposition between con-
templation and action comes, in the end, from Plato. And there,
too, the superiority of contemplation leads to the suspension of
all activity, including political activity: this is the skhole, which
could translate the Latin otium as:
freedom from political activity and not simply leisure time.
By contrast, in Aristotle, the separation between rest and non-
rest affects all forms of bios insofar as they are forms of askholia,
of which rest would be a modeY And, according to Thomas
Aquinas reading Aristotle, these movements are in an essential
relation to that unmoving which is the True: we will rediscover
this problematic, which is also that of God as the prime unmoving
mover, in the following chapter. In any case, vita activa:
Up to the beginning of the modern age [ ... ] never lost its negative
connotation of 'un-quiet,' nec-otium, a-skholia.
And finally, Arendt explained that she had to change the meaning
of 'vita activa' from the meaning conferred by tradition, to the
degree, precisely, that this meaning depended on contemplation,
on conceiving the elevation of life as consisting in nothing other
than contemplation, whereas for her it was a matter of rethinking
politics, that is, action, a matter of liberating action from the
weight of metaphysics:
Traditionally, therefore, the term vita activa receives its meaning
from the vita contemplativa [ ... ] the use of the term vita activa,
as I propose it here, is in manifest contradiction to the tradition
[ ... ] the enormous weight of contemplation in the traditional hier-
archy has blurred the distinctions and articulations within the vita
activa itself.
In fact, what I am myself trying to propose is that otium, insofar
as it cannot be confounded with negotium (to which, nevertheless,
as its name indicates, it seems to be opposed, or rather, which
The Otium of the People 123
seems, by its name, to be opposed to it), on the one hand cannot
simply be opposed to negotium - the opposition them
being precisely the metaphysical attitude that it is a matter of
- and yet, on the other hand, comprises an activity,
whtch can be entirely collective, on the condition that it is devoted
to existence insofar it is free in relation to its own subsistence
that is, exceeds subsistence by exceeding itself, by
the consistences that move it, 'motivate' it, form the reasons
to act, which themselves constitute the excess or surplus [exce-
dent] of general economy, as Bataille claimed: As spirit and con-
sistence, these reasons extend beyond the surplus of resources
issuing from the accumulation of capital, which, however, is its
condition - this capitalizable surplus being necessary in order to
be freed from the immediate pressure of subsistence and hence in
order to be capable of encountering the excess as what is incalcu-
lable, improbable, and inexistent yet consistent. In other words,
capital and its calculation as accumulation are needed in order
that what surpasses these as the experience of the incalculable can
arise, that experience of the incalculable that I here call 'singular-
ity' insofar as existence is only conferred as the experience of a
And it is here that we encounter the limit of Arendt's approach,
an approach that amounts to the privilege she gave to the action
and thought of the vita activa, or of what I myself call existence,
since it is the reason to act: Arendt failed to locate the irreducible
place, in this action, of tekhne; and, at the same time, she remained
completely blind to the question of grammatization. For the same
reason, she conferred to immortality a place against the eternal
that she believed could be found in vita contemplativa, because
she confused immortality and kleos.
In any case otium, as I have here defined it, is not simply the
'contemplative' life: as with what Arendt attempted to think, it is
a matter of a practice, that is, an activity, which may be public.
In brief, it is a matter of that which, like discipline, enables the
raising of existences capable of considering consistences, and this
is something that can and must be produced in an entirely practi-
cal way. As for the question of kleos, which must not be confused
with immortality, Arendt referred this, as glory, to the fame of the

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9. The culture of the exception as rule
Through the industrial expropriation of mnemo-technologies, that
is, through retentional systems that are the technical supports
required by all psychic and collective individuation, the twentieth
century optimized the conditions of production and consumption
by linking them tightly together. This was achieved by controlling
the time devoted both to work and to non-work, through the
deployment of calculation and information technologies in order
to control production and investment, and through communica-
tion technologies used to control consumption apd social behav-
iour, including political behaviour. These two spheres are today
integrated and constitute a form of global control, within which
existence is totally submitted to models of consumption, them-
selves totally conforming to the necessities of production, that is,
of subsistence, of negotium.
Now, this submission is structurally antagonistic to all otium,
to all cultural practices, for which the hegemony of negotium sub-
stitutes 'usages', defining themselves as models of consumption.
With digitalization, the great delusion and trap is, however, no
longer just the notion of the 'leisure society', that epoch postulated
by the post-industrial fable, but also the 'personalization' of indi-
vidual needs. Felix Guattari speaks of the production of 'dividu-
als', that is, the particularization of singularities, their absorption
into the totglity as mere parts, through their submission to com-
putational cognitive technologies, which constitute the optimal
technological model of control societies. Through user profiling
and other novel contro1 methods, these cognitive technologies
permit a subtle use of conditioning, referring here to Pavlov as
much as to Freud. Hence those services that incite readers of a
book to read other books read by other readers of those books.
Or, again, search engines that increase the value of the most con-
sulted references, reinforcing at a stroke .their consultation, and
constituting an extremely refined ratings system.
These digital machines, directing the production processes of
machines programmed by remote control in flexible workshops
(industrial robotics having become essentially a mnemo-technology
of production), are also the same machines that, when put at the
service of marketing, and according to the same norms and stan-
The Otium of the People 125
dards; organize consumption. Contrary to what Benjamin believed,
this is not a matter of a deployment of 'mass narcissism', but, on
the contrary, it is the massive destruction of individual and collec-
tive narcissism through the constitution of hyper-masses. As the
perfect fulfilment of nihilism, this generalized herdishness induced
by the elimination of primordial narcissism is the effective liquida-
tion of exceptionality [de /'exception].
In place of collective imaginaries and individual histories tied
to the heart of the psychic and collective individuation process,
industrial temporal objects substitute mass standards that tend to
reduce the singularity of individual practices and to reduce their
exceptional character. Now, the exception is the rule, but a rule
that is never formulable: it lives only through the occurrence of
an irregularity, that is, it is not formalizable and calculable by a
rule-driven descriptive apparatus that would be applicable in every
case, each case constituting the different occurrences of this rule
by default.
Hence, there may indeed be something common to all the
poems of a single poet. But this common membership can never
be reduced to a mere generative algorithm. Because with each
new poem, the poet individuates himself or herself: he or she
becomes - he or she becomes otherwise than a mere descriptive
algorithm. A poet is individuation par excellence, insofar as, being
essentially inscriptive, the poet is not describable - which is what
also constitutes the performative character of poetry, and, more
generally, of the idiom: what is true of the poet is true of the idiom
in general.
It is thus that the exception is the rule of the excess - and of
its counterpart, the lack [de(aut]: it is as such a rule that exceeds
every rule, a rule by default. This is why, for a long time, it was
referred to God, who constitutes absolutely irregularity as the rule
of the incomparability of singularities- as absolute past and abso-
lute future, that is, as a past that has never been present, and a
future that will never be present, and, as such, and very paradoxi-
cally, let's say extra-ordinarily, as a presence incomparable to
whatever present there may be.
The exception is the rule, but it must be cultivated - that is, by
the cult, or by culture as otium - at once to contain the e4cess
within it, and to reaffirm and to ceaselessly maintain it, because
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126 The Otium of the People
it is structurally lacking [fait structurellement defaut], and appeared
in the first place as (de)fault, that is, as the singularity of an idiocy.
Being turned to the extra-ordinary towards which it raises itself,
the exception is contested and denied by the stupid [bete] but
spontaneous force of the everyday [ordinaire]. As rule, the excess
that is the exception is life as will to power, as force that must be
protected from that counter-force that is nothing other than the
will to power turned back on itself, the spontaneously strong
banality of everydayness, tending spontaneously to submit exis-
tence to the hegemony of subsistence.
Voluntary or spontaneous, this power or potential is what must
be both contained and maintained as the best and the worst - by
cultivating its act.
The extra-ordinary towards which the exception is turned is
consistence. An exception always aims towards a consistence,
towards something that does not exist and that, as such, is not
everyday, that exceeds what exists, and, a fortiori, exceeds that
which subsists. All existence cultivates knowledge of an ex-ception
that bears it and through which it ex-sists, and all forms of sin-
gula,rity are always such exceptions, as humble and invisible as
they may remain in the eyes of the ordinary mortals [commun]
that we are, and, in this sense, they are detours that existence takes
in turning towards that which consists. The consistent, which is
not ordinary, is raised and, as such, puts singularities into move-
ment, that is, e-motivates [e-meut] them- but as that which moves
them towards themselves insofar as they become. Now, they can,
in thjs becoming, either regress or, on the contrary, raise them-
selves. When they raise themselves, the becoming becomes a future
[le devenir devient un advenir]: then the singularities advene [advi-
ennent]. This is what Bousquet or Deleuze call, after the Stoics,
an event.
These singularities must, although they advene, be maintained
as well as coQtained, and this is called cultivating them .. Now, the
goal of marketing is to make these singularities comparable and
categorizable by transforming them into empty particularities that
can be 'regulated' by capturing and harnessing libidinal energy, in
a way that is both hyper-massified and hyper-segmented. It is a
matter, at bottom, of a capitalist economy that has become fun-
damentally anti-libidinal and, as such, self-destructive.
The Otium of the People 127
Capitalism could only pursue its development in peace by sus-
taining desire, that is, by articulating the play of drives as that
composition that is desire. Now, only that which is singular, and
to that extent exceptional, is desirable: I only desire what to me
seems exceptional; there is no desire for banality, but there is a
repetition compulsion that tends towards banality - and that the
psyche, within which Eros and Thanatos are composed, origi-
narily harbours. The culture industry and marketing thus try to
develop the desire to consume but, when consumption becomes
nothing other than the ordeal of pure banality, it deceives and
frustrates desire, kills desire, because it reinforces the death-drive:
instead of sustaining desire, the culture industry and marketing
provoke and exploit the repetition compulsion. They in this way
thwart the life-drive. And because desire is essential to consump-
tion, this process is self-destructive. Such is the manner in which
Monsieur Le Lay digs capitalism's grave.
I can only desire the singularity of some thing to the extent that
this thing is the mirror of a singularity that I am, of what I don't
yet know, and that this thing reveals to me. But, to the extent that
capital must hyper-massify behaviour, it must also hyper-massify
desire and herd individuals together. At this point, the exception
becomes that which must be combated: such is the advent of nihil-
ism, industrial democracy engendering this herd society that now
finds itself close to the abyss.
10. The political economy of singularities
This is a genuine aporia of industrial political economy, and it
leads sooner or later to war. Now, this war is impossible: it
would not only be the Third World War, but the last, and even
the end of humanity. A jumpstart [sursaut] is therefore required.
This jumpstart could only be a politics both industrial and cul-
tural, which I have previously named a political economy of the
spirit, necessitated by the advent of technologies of the spirit.
But it must be just as much a political economy of singularities,
that is, of the exception insofar as it must be cultivated: at
the same time and ceaselessly maintained and contained as that
which is spontaneously lacking [defaut], even though life wills
the exception and is nothing other than this will - but this life,
128 The Otium of the People
as existence, is that which the hegemony of negotium tends to
What in France one calls the 'cultural exception' is the cloak
concealing the depth of these questions. However indispensable
the measures it entails may be, it has been instrumentalized as a
pure and simple political slogan. And it prevents those who lay
their hands on this slogan from reflecting on the exception in
general, and from taking the measure of the questions posed by
the deployment of hyper-industrial society, by the becoming-
cultural of capitalism that it signifies, and by the generalized
proletarianization and the symbolic misery in which it results.
From this primordial question for the becoming of global society,
such cant causes a secondary problem, that is regional and
sectorial, indeed 'corporative', and down plays the cultural ques-
tion just as much as do the ultraliberal arguments that, opposing
all 'cultural exception' measures, and within the framework of
international commercial accords, attempt to liquidate everything
The question of culture, such as I have tried to re-elaborate it
here, is seemingly overshadowed by these two positions, as antag-
onistic as they may appear, and which dissimulate the fact that an
historic mutation of capitalism has occurred, through which a
tendency to totalize existence has been cultivated, that is, a ten-
dency to reduce existence to subsistence. This is the result of the
hegemonic growth of the tendency towards the levelling of all
things characteristic of fulfilled nihilism. And because it consti-
tutes a major obstacle in the pursuit of national, continental, and
global psychic and collective individuations, it calls for the inven-
tion of a political economy of singularities that does not oppose
the process of grammatization of which capitalism is an epoch,
but on the contrary reinvents the composition of forces that,
alone, can confer a future upon this becoming.
This question is not limited to the life of what one calls 'culture',
that occupies, for example, in France, the minister designated
by this very name: every aspect of everyday existence is submitted
to the hyper-industrial conditioning of ways of everyday life. This
is the most disturbing problem of industrial ecology imagin-
able: the mental, intellectual, affective and aesthetic capacities
of humanity are massively threatened, at the very moment that
The Otium of the People 129
human groups have at their disposal unprecedented means of
The disbanding [debandade] in- which this ruin of the libido
consists is also political, to the extent that politicians adopt mar-
keting techniques to transform themselves into products, from
playing the accordion on television, to the delegation of their
political programmes to advertising agencies, as was the case for
the presidential campaigns of Franc;ois Mitterrand and for recent
European elections. The inevitable result is that these pretenders
to being the people's representatives discredit themselves in the
eyes of the people, who, no longer respecting them, allow them-
selves to make a suicidal vote (and not only as a protest vote) or
to abstain from voting: voters feel about politicians and their
apparatuses the same disgust they have for every other product.
The end result is the French election of 28 March 2004, where
the electorate voted against the government, but not for a party
that had any programme; and it is as well the character of the
European electorate that largely abstained on 13 June of the same
year, both these electorates suffering from a general destruction of
libidinal economy and from a political desire that was no longer
able to find any satisfaction: philia, with which Aristotle defined
the relation between citizens, is a highly refined and patiently
cultivated fruit of the libidinal economy. "
From 21 April 2002 to 13 June 2004 successive injunctions
were addressed to the political class to combat the symbolic and
psychological misery that inevitably also becomes political misery.
And it is not by chance if the political debacle of the French gov-
ernment, in the course of regional elections on 28 March 2004,
was crystallized around questions linked to culture and research.
The cultural question is not politically trivial: it is the very heart
of politics, including beyond the current context that 'cultural
capitalism' constitutes. Because culture is also libido, and the
city is a specific mode of the libidinal economy characterizing all
human society. But in the current context, within which industrial
activity tries essentially to capture and harness libidinal energy,
the articulation between culture and economy must become the
heart of the political question - and must do so at the European
level. Politics must before anything else be cultural, but in a pro-
foundly renewed sense: not in the sense according to which a
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130 The Otium of the People
mm1ster of culture, or a European parliamentary commission,
serves or fails to serve diverse and varied clientele of the cultural
arts - for instance, casual employees [intermittents] within the
programme industries - but rather as a critique of the limits of a
hyper-industrial capitalism that has become destructive of the
social organizations in which processes of psychic and collective
individuation consist.
Wanting to Believe
In the Hands of the Intellect
Because the desirable is a motor and, if thought is in its turn a
motor, this is because it finds the principle of its movement in the
Instead of having recourse to the concepts that habitually serve to
distinguish man from other living beings (instinct and intelligence,
absence or presence of speech, of society, of economy, etc. etc.), the
notion of program is invoked. It must of course be understood in
the cybernetic sense, but cybernetics is itself intelligible only in
terms of a history of the possibilities of the trace as the unity of a
double movement of protention and retention. This movement goes
far beyond the possibilities of the 'intentional consciousness'. [ ... ]
If the expression ventured by Leroi-Gourhan is accepted, one could
speak of a 'liberation of memory', of an exteriorization always
already begun but always larger than the trace which, beginning
from the elementary programs of so-called 'instinctive' behavior up
to the constitution of electronic card-indexes and reading machines,
enlarges differance and the possibility of putting in reserve: it at
once and in the same movement constitutes and effaces so-called
conscious subjectivity, its logos, and its theological attributes.
Jacques Derrida
It is a question of attaining this will that the event creates in us; of
becoming the quasi-cause of what is produced within us, the
Operator; of producing surfaces and linings in which the event is
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Wanting to Believe
reflected, finds itself again as incorporeal and manifests in us the
neutral splendour which it possesses in itself in its impersonal and
pre-individual nature.
Gilles Deleuze
1. The law of regression: being only intermittently
Wanting to believe. Such is my title.
c And it has a subtitle: In the
hands of the intellect. I am thus playing on the two possible mean-
ings of this subtitle:
In some way, it would be necessary to want to believe in the
hands of the intellect, in the fact that the intellect has some
hands, that it has always had them, and that this will endure,
that it will still and always have hands, that nothing has yet
been lost - because having hands, here, means being able to do
something; as such, I would also have been able to change my
title: Wanting to believe and being able to do [faire].
But Wanting to believe. In the hands of the intellect, this also
says that even when one is in the hands of the intellect, in the
grip of the intellect, imprisoned in the intellect, between its
hands- as one says in French, 'being in the hands of the police',
that is, being arrested by the police, and, as such, powerless - it
is necessary to continue to believe, it is necessary to want to
In brief, it is a matter of thinking the relation between the will
and the hand, such that they are believers. That is, also, intellectu-
als. But here, instead of the intellect, let us rather speak of voucr:
this Greek word that defines that soul called noetic in Aristotle's
treatise, On the Soul. I will therefore speak to you of voucr such
as it constitutes, for Aristotle, the noetic soul, but in an insur-
mountable relation to the sensitive soul.
I am speaking here in the context of what I have called hyper-
industrial society, where the singularly perceptible [sensible], as
object of an aesthetic experience of singularity consisting in an
enlargement of sense, is replaced by an archaistic and regressive
conditioning of sensibility.
Now, from where does the possibility
of this regression derive?
- - - - ~ ~ - - - - I
Wanting to Believe 133
Sensibility or perceptibility, thought as such for the first tjme
by Aristotle, characterizes two types of <souls': the sensitive soul
and the noetic soul. More generally, Aristotle distinguishes three
types of souls, that is, of being which find within themselves
their movement, their auto-mobility, their animation: the vegeta-
tive soul, the sensitive soul and the noetic soul. The sensitive
soul inherits the 'vegativity' of the vegetative soul, and the noetic
soul inherits the sensitivity of the sensitive soul (and through
this, it equally contains the vegetavity of the vegetative soul). But
the, sensitivity of the noetic soul is noetic through and through,
trans-formed by the fact that it is a sensitivity of the noetic:
it is the power of the noetic, and that it is noetic means that it
is inscribed in logic - the nQetic sensible opens on to sense as
semiosis, and not only as aesthesis. 'Logic' does not mean, then,
conforming to rules of rationality hut means, rather, inscribed
within a becoming-symbolic. All sensibility in act becomes, for
a noetic soul, the support of an expression. This expression
(discernment, krinein, judgement, making-a-difference
) is a logos
-word or gesture: narration, poem, music, engraving, representa-
tion in all its forms, but also savoir-faire and savoir-vivre in
general. This is not how metaphysics understands logos, but it is
how it must be understood, in particular within the horizon of the
question of political economy, which is that of my intervention
here today.
This becoming-symbolic as logos, which only is in the course
of its being ex-pressed, is what I call an ex-clamation: the noetic
experience of the sensible is exclamatory. It exclaims itself before
the sensible insofar as it is sensational, that is, experience of a
singularity that is incommensurable, and always in excess. The
exclamatory soul, that is, sensational and not only sensitive,
enlarges its sense by exclaiming it symbolically.
However, the becoming-symbolic of the noetic sensible in the
exclamation of the sensational can become the logistico-symbolic
control exerted by the noetico-aesthetic technologies, which are
the technologies of information and communication, and the
sensational can thus turn bad. This is what happens when con-
ditioning is substituted for experience. The exclamation is then
that of the 'sensationalist press'. It ,is a regression towards
the reactive and herdish behaviour of sensitive souls, where the
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Wanting to Believe
sensational engenders the panic behaviour of crowds. But this is
not a perversion caused by the culture industries or by what is
now called cultural capitalism: it is inscribed in the structure of
the noetic psyche. Aristotle emphasizes, in fact, that the noetic
soul is not always in action: its mode of being ordinary is to be
simply sensitive, which means that it remains in the stage of inert
power, of its powerless power. It is only intermittently that it
passes to the sensational stage of the noetic, which is also its extra-
ordinary stage. Heidegger, commenting on the Nicomachean
Ethics, writes that:
Man cannot constantly dwell among the timiotata; for man, this
autonomous mode of Being, forever attending to the timiotata, is
And in Metaphysics Book A, Aristotle cites Simonides:
God alone may have this prerogative.
That is to say, the privilege of always being in action [en acte].
The beastly or stupid tendency that was already thought in
Aristotle as the regression of the intellective-sensational soul to
the sensitive stage, is what contemporary industrial entropy
exploits -just as it exploits the projective and fascinating capacity
of the cinema of consciousness, the originarily cinemato-graphic
structure of 'consciousness', the fact that consciousness has the
character of an 'archi-cinema'.
The noetic soul cannot therefore be simply opposed to the sensi-
tive soul, from which it must on the other hand nevertheless be
distinguished, as Aristotle did in fact do. The sensitive artd the
noetic compose as potential and act. The sensitive soul, according
to Hegel, is the dunamis of the noetic soul that is only ever in
action (energeia, entelecheia) intermittently. This would mean that
as a general rule - and putting it vulgarly, or stupidly- the noetic
soul is stupid [bete]. Indeed, nasty [mechante]. And nothing is
perhaps more stupid or nasty than wanting to ignore this -that
is, wanting to ignore that this applies first of all to the one pro-
claiming it, and does so as the insurmountable limit of this state-
ment itself.
' ..
Wanting to Believe 135
One cannot oppose the sensitive soul in action to the noetic
soul in potential because it is matter of a process within which all
of this composes. Thought processually, dunamis and entelecheia
are no longer the equivalents of hyle and morphe, as metaphysics
has generany presumed, but rather of what Simondon calls the
pre-individual and the quantum leap as the act of an individuation
process, as fulfilment of this individuation, where this 'fulfilment'
['accomplissement'] is nevertheless always the exteriorization of
its incompletion [inachevement], or in other words is always defi-
cient [par defaut] to the extent that one only ever is intermittently
-to the extent that one is irreducibly s_tupid [bete].
The of origin is therefore also the origin of stupidity.
This stupidity, insofar as it nevertheless gives this act, is that which
can nevertheless also give the idiocy of the idiom, that is, of sin"
gularity. And this process is a circ4it: a circuit of desire, where
this desire is always an exclamation - the passage to the act in
which noesis consists is as such a1;1d primordially an 'exterioriza-
tion'. I will speak of this exteriorization, but I lack the time to
return to the circuit of desire.
From the moment that noesis is primordially 'exteriorization',
it is impossible to oppose the interior to the exterior, which is why
I place this within quotation marks. This distinction that does not
oppose - of which the cost and benefit is that the intellective can
no longer be opposed to the sensible, that logos can no longer be
opposed to hands.- gives place to a difference, to a or khora
as that which opens this difference, and within which the forces
of a process compose (and this is what metaphysics has failed to
realize) as distinction and composition, doing and thinking.
The Wirklichkeit of this lack of savoir-faire is the rejection of
technics as a process of ontological purification and, with technics,
the rejection of fiction as condemned to being on the side of
pseudos. But it is also the deployment of generalized proletariani-
zation, which characteri_zes current capitalism.
One could not, therefore, strictly oppose the sensitive to the
noetic, because the sensitive would be the potential of the noetic,
or, as Hegel says, its in itself, such that dunamis here resembles
matter. But, on the other hand, one cannot say that sensitivity
as the potential of the noetic is the same thing as sensitivity
as the act of a soul of which the potential is then vegetative ..... I
,, '
136 Wanting to Believe
therefore wish to speak of the sensitivity of the sensitive soul. But
as one can no longer say that noeticity opposes sensitivity, or
aestheticity (as when the intelligible is opposed to the sensible),
we must conclude that insofar as action belongs to aesthesis, nous
is itself aesthetic, but in an elevated sense, in some way lifted up
by nous - by nous as the power and action of exclamation. That
is to say, as belief. As, for example, when one says: what beauty!
One believes then that it is beautiful - and without wanting to,
without needing to want to, without even being able to want to,
if not indeed according to a power that is, precisely, that of a
An interpretative error must be avoided" that would consist in
posing that the sensitive soul is the animalian foundation of the
noetic soul, which, endowed with a supplementary logos, would
supplement the soul, or give spirit to the animal's soul. This error
of reading consists in taking to the letter the definition of the soul
as zoon politikon, as social animal, rational animal, speaking
animal and so on. To avoid this error, or, in other words, to make
the aestheticity of the noetic soul its very noeticity, rather than
treating this as merely its matter, to which the intellect as its form
would then confer its essence, I call the noetic soul 'sensational',
the sensational as experience being then the act of nous and at the
same time that of logos. And I further propose that dunamis
cannot be thought according to the hylemorphic schema: it already
carries within it, as pre-individual milieu, the potential to act -
which, when it is intermittently produced, is its knowledge. Now,
this knowledge is also, in Aristotle, the movement that produces
theos, the first immobile mover, habitually translated as God, and
to which each type of soul is, in its action, in a relation. From this
point of view, the immobile mover is the moveability of all souls.
One must then also say: their reason.
But we must also understand that the sensitive potential of the
noetic act can equally be, at its limit, the very impotential of the
noetic: such is the law of regression, or of unreason, inscribed in
these souls that are only . .. intermittently, and that all tend to
decay, according to the mode of their impotential potential, that
is, their potential incapability of passing into action.
This regression and impotentiality or incapacity, the debility in
which it consists, is the ordinary and quotidian fate of the noetic
Wanting to Believe 137
soul and its care [souci], that of which it must take care, which
in this sense requires what I call a belief: the noetic soul, between
these intermittences, where it passes to the act, loses sight of what
moves it insofar as it is noetic, that is, sensational, namely, the
theos that e-motes it in the sense of putting it in motion, motivat-
ing it as giving and giving back reason [donner et rendre raison].
Giving and giving back, because it gives a gift and a counter-gift
- what I call a circuit.
In short, we are at the scene of what it would be necessary
to call here the onto-theologico-political. And we are going to
try to replay this scene, but in a new setting. Because Aristotle
obviously did not read it himself as I propose to read it here.
But this is only to the extent that Aristotle can - since the inad-
equation of his text, insofar as it is a text, that is, a fiction
and, just as much, a dunamis, a potential, b r i ~ g s forth [porte] -
constitute a pre-individual milieu of individuation that, trans-
mitting what Simondon called a phase difference [dephasage] in
the psycho-social individuation of the West, can intermittently
leap beyond the metaphysical individuation that the West will
have been - a West that is achieved, that is, finished, dead,
given that capitalism fulfils itself as the advent of nihilism. And
where Aristotelianism poses the question of motor in terms of
causalities (material, formal, efficient and final), we must hence-
forth reason in terms of accidentality and automobility - that is,
in terms of supplementarities: grammatologically, and in the sense
according to which the supplement constitutes the process of a
2. 'Acceding- if possible, inasmuch as it is
possible - to another experience of singularity'
Having said all this, I would like to make clear that this lecture is
a commentary on several phrases expressed orally by Jacques
Derrida in 1994, in the course of a conversation between us that
was intended for television broadcast, although this never eventu-
ated, but which has since been published under the title
Echographies: Of TelevisionY Jacques Derrida said the following
-which he therefore did not originally write, although he reviewed
the literary version transcribed from the videorecording:
--------; r,
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138 Wanting to Believe
Once 'democratization' or what we call by this name has, thanks
precisely to the technologies we were just now talking about, made
such 'progress' (I am putting all these words in quotes), to the point
where, the classical totalitarian ideologies having foundered, in
particular those that were represented by the Soviet world, the
neoliberal ideology of the market is no longer able to cope with its
own power - once this has happened, there is a clearer field for
this form of homecoming called 'petty nationalism,' the national-
ism of minorities, regional or provincial nationalism, and for reli-
gious fundamentalism, which often goes with it [and which also
tries to reconstitute states]. Hence the 'regression' which accompa-
nies the acceleration of the technological process, which is always
also a process of delocalization.- and which in truth follows it like
its shadow, practically getting confused with it. Here again, because
we are talking about a double or polar movement, there can be no
question, it seems to me, of choosing between the two, or of saying:
What matters is the acceleration of the technological process at the
expense of the desire for idiom or for national singularity. Between
these two poles one must find, through negotiation, a way precisely
not to put the brakes on knowledge, technics, science, or research,
and to accede - if possible, inasmuch as it is possible - to another
experience of singularity, of idiom, one that is other, that is not
bound up with these old phantasmatics called nationalism or with
a certain nationalist relationship to language, to singularity, toter-
ritory, to blood, to the old model of t.lle borders of a nation-state.
I would like to think that the desire for singularity, and even the
desire or longing for home, without which, in effect, there is no
door nor any hospitality [ ... ] I would like to believe that this
unconditional desire, which it is impossible to renounce, which
should not be renounced, is not tied in a necessary way to these
schema or watchwords called nationalism, fundamentalism, or
even to a certain concept of idiom or language ...
I would like therefore to believe that this desire for singularity
can have another relation - it is very difficult - to technics, to
universality, to a certain uniformization of technics.
Much could be said about this text, which began as an oral con-
versation. I will return to it in more detail elsewhere. I will here
only evoke two aspects of this text: on the one hand, the polar
articulation between technological development and intensifica-
tion or, on the contrary, the liquidation of singularity; on the other
Wanting to Believe 139
hand, and this will be my principal theme, the question of a neces-
sity of wanting to believe, expressed in the conditiOJ)al, but of
conditionally believing in the unconditional (in 'this unconditional
desire'), which is also the question of belief as will. Now, in this
will as believing is equally posed the question of fiction - but I
will say: of fiction as operation. And of operation as political
performance. And this will of believing as fiction, and the fashion-
ing [facture]. of this fiction, such that it is always in some way a
manufacture, is also the question of a power to believe, of a power
to fiction, of a power of fiction, of a potential that conditions a
will, but also of an impotential that, as regression, can provoke
this fiction.
It is a matter here of 'unconditional desire, which it is impos-
sible to renounce'. But how does this 'renunciation' relate, on this
point, to desire insofar as it is unconditional, that is, insofar as it
must not be renounced, must not be ceded? And, furthermore,
what is it that we want here to state should not be renounced?
Is it a purely intellectual will (but what is a purely intellectual
will?), or does it concern a struggle, a combat to lead, eventually
in appealing to a force, to this force without which there is no
law, but also to this force that could oppose itself to the law, to
a force beyond-the-law that would want (why not?) to reinvent
the law, remake the law? But what would then be the law of such
a force, from where would such a law come, and who would
impose it?
Because, after all, the law is made: it does not fall from the sky
of ideas. There is no a priori form that would give shape to some
kind of material fallen in advance like a turd. The passage to the
act is not natural - unlike in the Platonic fable.
Renunciation sounds like a kind of grieving, that of metaphysics.
This grieving is also what we have had to learn to 'negotiate':
Between these two poles one must find, through negotiation, a way
precisely not to put the brakes on knowledge, technics, science, or
research, and to accede - if possible, inasmuch as it is possible - to
another experience of si)1gularity.
That is to say that one must compose, one must surpass the oppo-
sitions that characterize metaphysics in all its epochs.
140 Wanting to Believe
That one must compose also means that one must know how
to renounce - that which, as the play of oppositions, constituted
the delusions and lures of metaphysics, the consolatory fates and
compensatory behaviours in which it has consisted. But also the
system of domination of a certain idea of the law, according to
which it would have fallen from the sky.
One must therefore renounce metaphysics in all these senses,
but the entire issue is, however, for all that, to not renounce life,
that is, a form of struggle - because then there would no longer
be composition, but, precisely, a de-composition. Here, the ques-
tion that is posed is then the necessity of opposing in order to save
the possibility of composition, that is, also, to not purely and
simply sink into what Nietzsche called nihilism. The question that
imposes itself today is that of a struggle for w.hat it is impossible
to renounce, for that for which one must struggle, even if this
means that one must oppose oneself. But it is a matter of not
opposing oneself reactively. And therefore, in order to move
forward, that is, not reactively, it is necessary to cast a 'glance at
the current world'
and at its genealogy, and to practise what I
call, after Jacques Derrida, a history of supplements.
But before moving on, I will append a question, which I only
mention in passing even though it cleady constitutes one of the
central stakes at issue here: when Jacques Derrida appeals to a
negotiation that knows how to accede both to knowledge and to
singularity, and that would do so, precisely -
if possible, inasmuch as it is possible
- is there not a problem? Why not pose in advance - and as the
power of a passage to the act that only ever occurs intermittently,
and that, of course, might therefore never occur -' why not pose
in principle what would be, for example, the principle of a politi-
cal economy understood as a will to believe: that the development
of the technological process must be the development of singular-
ity, which it would have been, for instance, when it was a matter
of the grammatization of the letter? This grammatization of the
letter certainly came at a cost, at the cost of deficits, defaults,
linguicides, idiocides, in particular in Latin America and Brazil, in
the war of spirits that accompanies that of bodies,
and at the
Wanting to Believe 141
cost of an enormous stupidity, including and in particular what is
named metaphysics, but it would certainly also be a matter of
spirit, of that spirit about which Valery writes, let us recall:
A world transformed by spirit no longer presents to the mind the
same perspectives and directions as before; it poses entirely new
problems and countless enigmas.
3. The system of supplements and its potential
for individuation
Is it not on the condition of posing this principle as unconditional,
while placing in suspense this would-be [or, this 'perhaps', peut-
etre] that constitutes the question of the intermittence of the access
to timiotata, holding it, in other words, in the conditions of
improbability in which alone belief can consist, this consistence
being then its power, is it not on this condition without condition
that one can want to believe? And to believe in the hands of the
intellect, even when, as here, it is a question of books in the hands
of the intellect?
Singularity is constituted through grammatization. I call gram-
matization the history of supplements that, in its orthothetic stage,
opens the question of 'its' as such and closes off, as metaphysics,
the interrogation of hypomnesis, yet while pursuing and intensify-
ing its hypomnesic development, precisely as the history of the
three technological revolutions of grammatization, within which
must be included the reproduction of movement in all its forms.
The unfurling of the process of grammatization, thus understood,
constitutes the Western history of the supplement. This process,
which Sylvain Auroux does not himself analyse as a process, is
one part of the process of technical, psychic and collective indi-
viduation, where the I, the we, and the supplement (what I have
elsewhere called the it) co-individuate themselves, thereby forming
a system of supplements: the supplement is always already sup-
plements. Grammatization is that which, in the individuation of
the system of supplements, which is the history of supplements,
concerns this specific dimension of supplementarity that is prop-
erly speaking hypomnesic. But this hypomnesic dimension of
grammatization is not limited to symbolic utterances: it includes
142 Wanting to Believe
all the movements of the noetic soul, that it supports as tekhne in
general - but that it only properly speaking discretizes, and only
grammatizes in this sense, when the machine permits the repro-
duction of its gestures.
Hence grammatization does not ody affect those utterances
and symbolizations that are usually recognized as belonging to the
domain of logic and intellect, of nous such as it has been thought
by metaphysics, but equally affects the sensible or perceptible,
such as the world of art enlarges it, but also, and especially, the
ars in general, that is, the mechanical as well as the liberal arts,
and, in other words, all knowledge, whether theoretical knowl-
edge o.t; practical knowledge, the latter consisting of savoir-faire
apd savoir-vivre. From out of this takes place what Marx described
as the reckoning [comput] of the gestures of workers who, finding
their knowledge formalized and exteriorized in the machine
apd, as such, grammatized, find themselves reduced to the condi-
tion of the proletariat. Such is the process of proletarianization,
d,1,e accomplishment of industrial capitalism, carrying forward the
process of grammatization and constituting the final epoch of the
Western history of the supplement. From here, too, an analysis of
the history of the supplement today, which can only be today a
political task, must also be an analysis of the generalization of
Now, as for the future possibilities contained in this becoming
in which grammatization as proletarianization consists, one must
never stop repeating that the history of grammatization has always
at the same time been an expropriation of the proper, that is, of
that which, in the idiom, constitutes its idiomatic difference, and
the possibility of replaying this difference in order to intensify it.
This is what happens with the letter insofar as it leads to literature,
as well as to the law and to the possibility of citizenship as a
singularity posed in law (if not in fact- such is the necessary, legal
and legitimate fiction of the law) for all citizens. And, beside this
difference between the fact and right of citizenship, one could q.lso
speak of citizenship in potential and in act, and of fiction and its
law held within this difference, and within the intermittences that
it handles, and within the belief that it calls forth.
This intensification of difference within gramma.tization m
which consists the nascent polis is what I h a v ~ analysed, m
Wanting to Believe 143
relation to the literal orthothesis that orthographic writing consti-
tutes, as the production of dif(erantial identification. The polis,
insofar as it is an epoch of grammatization and, more precisely,
insofar as it is a translation into the social organization of move-
ment of the development of hypomneses through the epiphyloge-
netic becoming produced in the Mediterranean basin (and which
I will show elsewhere must be placed in relation to the economy,
commerce and subsistence activities in general, thus in relation to
technics in general, including art
), is equally the appearance of
education (the citizen must be literate), such that this is no longer
simply initiation: it is the grammatist, the master of letters, who
in the form of the sage replaces the priest or the mage, and who
is thus also the origin of the sophist as well as of philosophy as
academy (which Plato wants to make a school of philosophers
conceived as the only legitimate rulers of the city) and school.
Now, the school as the hearth within which citizens are forged
consists, as a republican and demo-cratic institution, in spreading
access to the timiotata while instituting this access - which is also
to organize eris as elevation towards the ariston.
From this arises the question that imposes itself today: are the
new orthotheses - constituted by analogue and digital technolo-
gies, but also those mechanical technologies that reproduce move-
ment and that can be included irl what Simondon called
methanology, technologies which have permitted the proletariani-
zation of the producer and the consumer - do these technologies
contain the potential to renew the individuation of the I and of
the we, individuations that at present they undo, rather than sup-
porting the possibility of their singularization, that is, of their
In other words, what can be said practically, today- that is, in
this epoch of the history of the supplement and of the grammati-
zation that it supports insofar as it is a system of supplements -
about this situation of wanting to believe that this epoch, for as
much as it is possible, and each time that it is possible, accedes to
another experience of singularity?
Generalized proletarianization concretizes itself through a dual
exteriorization, formalization and standardization of savoir-faire
and savoir-vivre. This generalized grammatization, that supports
and concretizes generalized proletarianization, must also be that
' II.
I j
I '
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144 Wanting to Believe
which supports and concretizes the possibility of a singularization
- to the extent that the hypomnesic characters of machipes and
apparatus would become objects of culture, that is, of practices,
and not merely of usages. But this could only be constituted as an
industrial project of a political economy of the spirit of continental
dimensions, as the orgal).ization of a system of supplements.
4. A plea for little rational accounts
Decomposition is not a fatality: it is a question of economy and
of politics. Insofar as it inscribes itself in a struggle and aims at
interpretations that are transformations of the world, the treat-
ment of this question aims as well at prescriptions, which them-
selves presuppose systematic analyses of the singularity of the
current epoch of grammatization.
The republican school was one such decision and a sustained
repercussion of the second technological revolution of grammati-
zation, that is, of printing, and was, moreover, preceded, as shown
by Furet and Jacques Ozouf/
by a religious literacy
programme [alphabetisation], emerging in p<\rticular from the
Reformation and Counter-Reformation: a literacy programme by
clerics, either living in otium or engaged in worldly affairs, con-
stituting in other words a limited education of the people, and to
which con;esponded a literacy itself 'limited'. With the philoso-
phers of the Enlightenment, in particular with Condorcet, and
with Turgot, the notion of the school as renewing the democratic
or republican hearth was able to stimulate, on laic and political
grounds, and at the very moment the industrial revolution was
unleashed, the project of managing the access of the demos become
'people' to the timiotata. This was done through the systematic
and compulsory development of the practice of hypomnemata
across a form of public instruction instituting a new otium of the
people, and which, as laic instruction, came to oppose the otium
of the people that had until then dominated as the religious cult,
and which, precisely, the philosophy of rigorous socialism (that
communism was understood to be) went on to call the opium of
the people. Furthermore, Ferry, after the founding work of Guizot,
il).stituted an instrument of adoption corresponding to new needs,
11eeds created, precisely in relatioQ. to adoption, by the industrial
Wanting to Believe 145
revolution: consumers as well as producers had to know how to
control machines just as they had to be able to read the press that
ensured the promotion of new products.
Now, we are today living the trailblazing arrival
fulgurante] of a new age of hypomnemata that sweeps
republican school, as the ideal of an otium of the people
from the Enlightenment and from nineteenth-century revolutiOn-
ary struggles, and the political task in this regard is perfectly clear
- and in this clarity it copstitutes an absolute priority, just as
school was a priority for the Church, and as it also was for revo-
lutionaries: it is a matter of struggling against this opium that
certain media have, in effect, become (whereas previously the press
had been the condition of social struggle and of democratic and
popular instruction, as Turgot claimed), in particular that media
that aims to sell 'available human brain time'
to the producers
of subsistence, but that, insofar as they are hypomnemata, can
and must become practical supports constituting a new otium of
the people. This is a state affair and, beyond this, an affair for
public powers themselves profoundly rethought, that it is
also the nature of public space that here changes, and, m the first
place, it is an affair for a European public power finally capa?le
of replaying the immense chance constituted by the accumulatton
of hypomnemata, in which its culture in all its hypomnesic and
more generally its epiphylogenetic forms consists.
But, reckoning with this situation, which concerns those
new forms of hypomnemata that are the industrial mnemo-
technologies, is a question of industrial politics as well as of spir-
itual politics: it is the question of a political economy of the spirit
and of spiritual technologies in the sense of spiritual economy
referred to by Valery, and such that it is the sublimation of a
libidinal economy.
And finally, this weighty task, that constitutes par excellence
today's political responsibility, belongs firstly to those whom one
calls 'intellectuals', whom I prefer to call thinkers, savants, artists,
philosophers and other clerics (because, and I will return to this
at the end, 'intellectuals' are, before anything else, manual workers
and technicians, whatever it is they may think they are- and it is
to this that they must henceforth give serious thought). In any
case, it cannot be a matter of simply offloading this question on
I >I
146 Wanting to Believe
to those one today calls, with more or less contempt (more or less
unjustified: contempt, when it is a matter of reflecting, is always
an obstacle to thought), 'politicians', and, for example, of criticiz-
ing ministers and others, public and private, who are responsible
for the future of the spirit and of its bodies and diverse incarna-
tions - to do so would merely be to grant oneself a cheap alibi in
order to avoid putting oneself to work, and would thus in the
end be to discard one's own responsibilities. We must surely
criticize the powers in place, public and private, economic and
institutional, and so on, and, as well, academic and scientific,
when they abandon their primordial vocation in order instead to
integrate themselves, like clerics, into an apparatus leading to
desingularization. But such a critique will in the future only be
legitimate on the condition that we invent a field of discussions
and propositions, leading towards practical questions, but also
towards the question of practices, and towards decisions, towards
accounts, whether petty or grand, in brief, towards fictions, but
towards good fictions: realizable fictions, creating movement,
designing motives, forging motivations- accounts that are in some
way rational.
5. Fiction and the hand
Before continuing, I want here to make two clarifications, one
about the question of decision, that is, about political economy,
and the other about the hand. Let us begin with the latter, because
it will take less time (but I will return to it at the end): gramma-
tization is a retreat of the hand, and this is as such that in which
the proletarianization of producers consists, contrary to the cliche
that subsumes the proletariat to the working class, that is, to
manual workers.
Nevertheless, this retreat of the hand understood as a retreat of
the corporal organ of fabrication, to be replaced by the machine,
does not only affect the producer: it is also that which makes the
hand of the consumer become an ensemble of fingers that press
buttons and lose their savoir-vivre, a savoir-vivre that supports the
savoir-faire that their hands possess, as the right and left unities
of the fingers. There is nothing disastrous about this retreat: it is
a part of grammatization and thus it must be enacted. It is the
Wanting to Believe 147
continuation of what Leroi-Gourhan analysed as the retreat of the
foot in the hand (a retreat of the motricity of the hand), and, again,
I will return to this at the end. On the other hand, it has conse-
quences that must be analysed in a detailed way: it forms part of
the history of the supplement, which is as it were the description
of the becoming of organs.
The other, lengthier remark ties the hand to fiction, and fiction
to decision. Grammatization is the pursuit of what Leroi-Gourhan
and with him Jacques Derrida called (but with greater reserve on
the part of Derrida) the process of exteriorization. This process is
life insofar as it produces itself technically, that is, as death. It is
death as that which seizes hold of life, but it is also life as that
which itself seizes hold of death. Now, this seizing of life by death,
and of death by life, is what appears in fiction, as the lure of
fiction, whenever life is opposed to death, as occurs when meta-
physics opposes and separates the immortal soul and the mortal
body, and, in some way, the head, that is, capital, and labour
force, which can become exhausted, and which we must therefore
regularly replace - which means that, becoming merely a com-
modity, it becomes replaceable in law as in fact, which is what
Marx denounces.
Be that as it may, however, noetic life is intrinsically fictive,
fictional, and, as such, to be decided, decided in the political
economy of this libidinal and spiritual economy that a city con-
stitutes - it is deciding to realize a fiction. It is wanting to believe
in a fiction: law, insofar as it is a difference we must make. Or to
put it another way: it is to have imagination - or, yet again, to
invent. Technics was suppressed as an object of thought precisely
because it was declared structurally and irreducibly fictive. It is
also for this reason that thought has been effaced from technics
as fiction and from fiction as technics, to the profit of a thought
of fiction in language and as opposed to truth in language, as
pseudos, as lies and as moral questions- all on the basis of oppos-
ing essence and accident. If this operation is clearly something we
find Plato engaging in -Plato, ihe great suppresser of the question
of technics who, in some way, prevented technics from becoming
the object of question, making it into something trivial - then
twenty-five centuries of philosophy have consolidated this position
and, today, the question of fiction, as essential to politics as it may
~ : J
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148 Wanting to Believe
be, has been profoundly deformed by the metaphysical fiction that
turned it into a problem of morality and language.
My claim, however, is that this question is essential to politics,
in the sense of being definitional: what is politics, in fact, if not
the question imposing itself on human beings insofar as they live
together, and insofar as living together, they must make decisions,
that is, create fictions? Because taking decisions canpot be other
than creating fictions, transforming the world ~ and making it in
conditions of tekhne, that is, also, of potential, and of the potential
to access dead or inherited potentials as pre-individual funds,
which political beings arrange, or which they invent. On these
decisions they do not agree, and they never will agree, precisely
because these decisions rest on fictions, insofar as they only are
[le n'etre que] in being taken, and find their origin and their neces-
sity in the (de)fault of origin, that is, in the felicitous incompletion
of the psychic and collective individuation process.
Marx said the question was no longer to interpret the world
but to transform it. Nietzsche specifies that all transformation of
the world is an interpretation, and conversely. It is a question of
generalized performativity, in the sense opened up by Derrida, but
where this means a fundamental technicity of language, and where
the question will less and less concern language, and will more
and more concern the grammatizable in general- this generaliza-
tion also constituting generalized proletarianization.
The city, having to make decisions, and therefore having to
produce fictions that transform the world while interpreting it,
seeks to find points of agreement: but in metaphysics, the agree-
ment that is sought will be founded on a text that would not be
a fiction, the transparent text of a foundational truth, a text that
would not be, otherwise put, technical, or that would deny its own
technicity, the text of the constitution. of the good city, of the ideal
city, which will rest on the exclusion of poets, precisely to the
extent that the text is constituted (but also and in advance invali-
dated) by the denial of the constitutivity of technics - where
technics itself constitutes a power of fiction. From that point
onward, the fictive will be opposed to the true.
Now, today, after the industrial revolution and two centuries
of machine-based capitalism, the question is to know how to
distinguish good and bad fictions, rather than to purify truth of
Wanting to Believe
all fiction. But this passes through an entirely new consideration
- an elevated consideration - of the question of technics.
6. Noesis as motricity and the reproduction
of movement as the consistence as well as
the irrationality of grammatization
in the being-only [le n'etre que]
As the analysis of temporal flows, in the first place linguistic flows,
constituting their formalization, which is also their synchroniza.,
tion, their dis-idiomatization, in other words their de-diachroni-
zation, grammatization characterizes the history of this war of the
Spirit conducted by spirits, a war that the conquering West has
led for almost 3,000 years - and that led to capitalism. Yet while
this process is clearly a domination machine, it also involves an
intensification of singularities, but an intensification that is accom-
plished by displacements at the level of idiomatic differentiation.
These displacements can be directly or indirectly translated into
the terms of political organization. One major issue for this trans-
lation is the school, which, as I explained in Technics and Time,
3: Cinematic Time and the Question of Malaise, constitutes a
political organization of selection criteria within the retentional
systems that give structure to the pre-individual funds of psycho-
social individuation, and that does so with a view to organizing
the adoption of the pre-individual funds in which politics essen-
tially consists, itself thought as a psychic and collective individu-
ation process.
Now, with the appearance of the machine as the repetition of
a process of transforming matter, a repetition in the sense that
the machine becomes equivalent to a gesture, grammatization
becomes that of corporal motricity in general. But we must here
make clear that the gr(;lmmatization of the word was already a
grammatization of corporal motricity, but limited to the jaws,
tongue and larynx, which together constitute the system of phona-
tory organs. This is, however, what metaphysics renders unthink-
able. That grammatization takes on this motricity, that is, the
motricity of the body, clearly has immense consequences for
noesis, given that noesis is before anything else the mode of the
Wanting to Believe
mobility of souls through their bodies and in their relation to the
prime mover.
Mechanization as a process of grammatization was very quickly
extended to the new mnemo-technics constituted by analogical
reproduction technologies in the nineteenth century, and by digital
reproduction at the end of the twentieth century. This mnemo-
technical grammatization continued the hypomnesic development
of the West along an industrial path, so that the machine that
reproduced the motricity of the body of the producer - that is, of
the worker who had previously manually worked the world -
continued to develop instruments of the ars, but in so doing dis-
individuated the worker who, losing his savoir-faire, and becoming
pure labour-force - that is, a commodity - became thereby prole-
tarianized. As for analogical and digital mnemo-technical gram-
matization, this enabled, on the one hand, the emergence of the
figure of the consumer by massifying and reproducing behaviours
no longer of production but of consumption, and, ort the other
hand, it enabled the functional and mechanical integration of
production and consumption (this is what constitutes the hyper-
industrial epoch of capitalism), resulting in a: proletarianization of
consumers themselves, progressively reducing existence solely to
the conditions of pure subsistence, that is, to developmental
imperatives conceived exclusively in terms of increasing the sur-
pluses garnered from investmept.
For all that, my belief remains that this becoming is self"destruc-
tive, or, to put it in the words of Jacques Derrida, auto-immune.
And this is my belief to the es:tent that I believe this becoming
destroyed the principle it was implementing to the precise extent
that it was in fact implemented - because the way in which this
grammatization was implemented is hegemonically synchronizing,
and excludes in principle all possibility for the intensification of
singularities in which it could and must, on the contrary, consist.
This self-destruction of capitalism relies in the end on that which
constitutes itself as a libidinal economy, of which the principal
motive has become the capture and harnessing of the libido of
consumer-producers. This capturing and harnessing of libido can
only be realized through a standardization of libidinal fluxes and
flows, which is necessarily a destruction of these flows - to the
precise extent that only singularity can put these flows into move-
Wanting to Believe 151
ment, the movement of bodies and souls, their motive and their
desire and, as such, their will. Through the very fact that hyper-
industrial capitalism is a total mobilization of energies, that is, .a
form of totalitarianism, it destroys these energies and becomes the
impotent and immobile power of a world within which reason is
reduced to a ratio no longer able to produce any motive: it has
become irrational.
7. Politics as struggle against the renunciation
of timiotata
The industrial revolution, which was the beginning of these new
stages of grammatization - stages which according to all evidence
are ruptures in the history of the West, itself understood as gram-
matization- was at the same time the death of God, that is, the
liquidation of a certain form of credit, and the appearance of new
forms of credit, in the emergence, on the. one hand, of capital
insofar as it is credit, and, on the other hand, as the discourse of
progress that came with it, a discourse that eventually came to
oppose capital, but that did so by postulating another belief in
progress, the belief in political emancipation through struggle:
Today, these forms of credit without belief have engendered a
discredit that is a decomposition of the psychic and collective
individuation process, a discredit concretely expressed in the pro-
duction of generalized proletarianization, and such that, .in the
composition .of synchronic and diachronic tendencies constituting
both the singularity and the banality of an idiom - that is, the
partition opening the koine in which it always already consists,
the condition of all public space - the massification of consumer
behaviour has led to the necessity of hyper-synchronizing con-
scious time, at the risk of completely de-singularizing individua-
tion processes, and of thereby causing them to completely disband.
Decadence is this disbanding. Nevertheless, this becoming is
recent, and it was preceded by the development of capitalist credit
conceived exclusively as calculation - which was made possible
through an evolution of grammatization, n o t a b ~ y in the sphere of
accounting, that is, in the hypomnesic sphere of account-books,
as Max Weber understood so well.
: I
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152 _Wanting to Believe
At present, grammatization opens the scene for decisions that
must be taken, decisions that can only be settled through combat.
Now, these combats are fictions: they are combats for a belief
that is, at the same time, for the potential of this belief, for a power
which is that of hands or of that which ensues from them in gram-
matization, as technical manipulation.
I have in the second chapter of this work introduced the
sity of leading a combat that thinks itself in terms of the composi-
tion of tendencies, a composition within which that base [vile]
tendency that wants to elimi,nate the duality of tendencies is always
in play, whereas I have insisted on the inverse, namely that all
individuation, as composition, is also always a combat, and first
of all a combat against the renunciation of existence, a renuncia-
tion towards which all existence spontaneously tends, culture
being that which, at the heart of psycho-social individuation,
organizes the struggle against this renunciation. The renunciation
of e:l):istence is a renunciation of becoming-other as future, that is,
as elevation. It is what is produced between the intermittences that
are these elevations, these timiotata, and that, forming the singu-
larity of the psycho-social individual, describe the noetic soul that
one more commonly calls man, for whom the fundamental move-
ment is to rise up at the same time that he knows before all expe-
rience that he is inhabited by a lack or deficiency [defaut] in the
form of weakness/
a weakness that drags him down, and drags
him beneath everything that was conquered by his ancestors
[ascendants]. At the beginning of the present chapter we saw with
Aristotle that this base tendency is inscribed in the psyche just as
is the potential for noesis, and that this fact is insurmountable:
one must ceaselessly combat it. But, from the political point of
view, this means that one must combat it at the level of the organi-
zation of the process of psycho-social individuation. This means
much more than what Patrick Le Lay nevertheless explained so
clearly, which was the way in which cultural and hyper-industrial
capitalism exploits those libidinal fluxes and flows that are the
fluxes and flows of consciousness, an exploitation consisting in
very deliberately dragging noetic souls down to the level of sensi-
tive souls: herding these souls and making them into human sheep,
or even into human arthropods (which I described in 'The allegory
of the ant-hill'
), that is, a planetary society of insects. The timio-
Wanting to Believe 153
tata are that towards which it is matter of raising oneself, but this
is only possible within the conditions offered by hypomnemata,
and it is the role of organizations of political economy promising
a future to make accessible and to support singular and. individual
(psychic) hypomnesic practices.
The history of the supplement thus henceforth requires a poli-
tics of the hypomnemata issuing from the three preceding
trial revolutions, themselves preceded by two technological
revolutions of grammatization, the first being the epoch of the
linearization of writing and of the appearance of orthography,
which is also the epoch of the constitution of the polis, and the
second being the epoch of printing and of what Sylvain Auroux
calls 'linguistic tools', which in addition to being the epoch of the
Reformation is that of colonization and of missionaries that is
' '
of the process of mondialatinization via the worldwide expansion
of 'extended Latin grammar'.
8. The proliferation of hypomnemata and the noetic
soul as the technical movement of the flesh
Action is always in some way a passage to the act of a potential,
which means that action is always in some way technical and as
such practical. And here it must be asked why practice has always
been thought on the basis of the hand and as belonging to it. And
this must be asked at the very moment when the hand withdraws
in relation to grammatization while hypomnemata proliferate.
The retreat of the hand is a chance and a trap. The trap is what
I have described as the mechanical and digital integration of pro-
duction and consumption, but where this includes the clerics and
all the other old actors from the world of symbols, which is also
the world of noesis in action, the world of nous, of spirit, of intel-
lect, a world that finds itself integrated into the system of produc-
tion through machines, what Lyotard called the age of the
performativity of knowledge, and within which the 'intellectuals',
as manipulators of symbols, become in their turn producers, but
producers who, serving machines, or mechanical retentional
systems, increasingly lose their savoir-faire, and, along with it,
their theoretical knowledge, at the very same moment that con-
sumers (which they also are) are losing their savoir-vivre.
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, I
154 Wanting to Believe
As for the chance, it is that of rethinking noesis as passing
through the hand. Because noesis, like grammatization, is techni-
cal, and technicity is first of all the technicity of the hand insofar
as it holds that which made it originarily deficient [fait origin-
airement defaut], and which it must be: a prosthesis, that crutch
of understanding, reason and sensibility that are the ars, and
of which I have tried to show that Kant's conception of the
schema did not allow him to think, closing off any possibility
for him to think technics, as can be seen in Theory and Practice,
given that in this work technics is for him nothing more than
applied science.
The grammatization process in which capitalism consists will
eventually have the concrete outcome that the sphere of hypom-
nesis will be absorbed into the sphere of production, that is, the
intellect will be absorbed into that sensitivity that is first of all, or
at least reputed to be, that of the hand. And yet, we must also see
this in an inverse way: it is the hand that would have been
absorbed by the intellect, that will be held in the grip of the intel-
lect- in the hands of the intellect, to put it figuratively ... but this
figure traces a vicious circle. It is in this situation that hypomne-
mata proliferate.
The nous of the noetic soul is at bottom the technical movement
of the body, and the technicity of this movement is what describes
the animation of this body, its anima, its soul- this body and that
which exteriorizes itself of its soul through its movements and
through the 'exteriorization' made possible by grammatization -
at the risk of what Marx and Simondon describe as a loss of
individuation. But we also know this was the very chance of sin-
gularity, or at least of that singularity that we want to preserve
when we want to hold on to the possibility of political economy
against an anti-political economism.
Now, if the will is a potential, or rather, the act of a potential,
this potential is that of fictioning-in-action, that is, with the hands,
making things with these hands, or with what has grammatized
these hands in making them disappear - machines (which are
never abstract, contrary to what is believed in very different ways
but nevertheless jointly by Deleuze and cognitivism), including
weapons [armes]: hands are also what one fights with, and these
hands are sometimes bare and at other times armed, but it is
Wanting to Believe 155
always a matter of hands that fight because they m.a11ipulate a
weapon, in potential or in act. And when the hands have disap-
peared, giving way to weapons [armes] without hands, it remains
the case t h ~ t these weapons affect bodies: the hand is after all a
name for the flesh,
that is, for life, but precisely insofar as it is
a deadly affair, and insofar as it makes death [fait le mort].
There would therefore be another thing that could b ~ done
[chose a faire] with bare or armed hands, or without hands: with
machines. This thing consists in combat- within which one can
make death or play dead [faire le mort].
Doing things [faire des chases], an expression that in popular
language designates concupiscent behaviour, is always, in meta-
physics, a villainous question, the question of villains, a vile ques-
tion, in some way a question of hoodlums. Whoever says 'tech11ics'
says 'manual', and whoever says 'hand', in French at least, always
also says, more or less, 'villain'. Hoodlums are thus often thought
of as, and often in fact are, henchmen [hommes de main], men of
the hand. Those who come with hands are those who are deficient
in logos, insofar as this is the condition of the passage to the act
of nous: they are not intellectuals.
And yet, if the soul is noetic to the extent that it is exclamatory,
this is first of all because it has hands. That is, flesh: this body
that it, precisely, animates. The noetic soul is exclamatory to the
degree that it has hands, of which the tongue [langue] would
be only a case, and whereby these hands are constituted through
the process of exteriorization that is the concretization of this
exclamation, a process within which, however, the hands them-
selves end up disappearing, and with them, the tongue in its mode
of being manual. But this means that the question of the hand is
that of technicity beyond the hand and which, through it, but
passing through it, will be opposed to the intellect like the evil to
the good.
Reading Jacques Derrida, along with Nietzsche (the genealo-
gist), initiated me into what I here call composition- beyond what
metaphysics constitutes as a play of oppositions. Composition
practically consists in the thought that everything must be thought
in terms of tendencies, which imposes thinking fiction as the
reducible play of these tendencies: reducible to the fiction, impos-
sible in law but very possible in fact, of a sole tendency, to the
156 Wanting to Believe
bad fiction of the total tendency, of totalization, of the suppression
of all singularity.
Thought is a combat, but this combat must begin by thinking
how and why the intellect has hands, which is also the fact of its
dunamis, which is not simply its material, but its body, or its flesh,
and such that it is constituted as flesh by the fact that these hands
hold something - not to mention the fact that they can also clasp
other hands, this last constituting an action which is, as Paul Celan
said, sometimes like a poem.
9. By default
We must [II (aut] preliminarily pose that in law (if not in fact) -
because, as Jacques Derrida said, it is a matter of 'acceding' ['faire
droit'] to singularity - one must not only pose but without doubt
impose, that technics and singularity must be co-produced, that
they can only be produced through one another. And one
must oppose that which opposes this law - one must oppose all
those facts that form obstacles to this law or, rather, one must
oppose all that which, in the facts, tends to eliminate the possibil-
ity of this tendency that is the right to singularity - which is,
without doubt, the condition of all those other rights that are
clamorously demanded in the name of that overused expression,
'human rights'.
This is necessary, and it is necessary by default [le (aut par
defaut], that is: even without knowing how this is possible, or
even if it is possible. Whether this is possible or impossible, one
must affirm that this possibility is necessary. That technics can
absorb singularity- and it is, as grammatization, ah expropriation
- is a possibility inscribed in the fact that it involves a play of
forces, which is also the play of what Aristotle described as the
intermittence of the act within the permanence of potential, which
is also to say, seen inVersely, the permanent tendency to regression.
What I have described throughout this work as a process of
decomposition of forces is the play of this regression such that
capitalism toys with it at the risk of destroying itself. It is up to
us [nous], and I say 'us' while I willingly admit that I do not know
who this 'us' is, other than being those to whom is posed in act,
that is, in action, the question taught to us here of nous, a ques-
Wanting to Believe 157
tion that is all the more open, generous and improbable given that
I am ignorant about who this refers to while still believing, in
advance and in principle, and in a fiction of principle,
that it is
up to us to say that this tendency is self-destructive, and up to us
to oppose it, to oppose it by affirming that this tendency is unjust,
and that this fact does not permit any law, has no law, and tends
to eliminate all law.
The question is therefore that of a combat that it is a matter of
leading, and of a will that poses a state of law, that poses in prin-
ciple the difference between law and the dominant state of fact, a
state of fact imposed through forces themselves in combat - but
in combat against singularity. This would thus be a combat against
TF-1 - but, beyond this, all television, which is always either
totally or partially financed by advertising, and this is what it is
a matter of changing. This combat that it is a matter of leading,
this response to the war being led against singularity, and which,
if it is not engaged, will still and always allow the development of
reactions coming from wounded singularities -
what one calls 'petty nationalism', the nationalism of minorities,
regional or provincial nationalism, and for religious fundamental-
ism, which often goes with it [and that also tries to reconstitute
states], hence the 'regression' which accompanies the acceleration
of the technological process, which is always also a process of
- this must be the constitution of a force, and a force that pro-
poses. Now, such a force of proposition - and which must be
imposed, as one says, through the force of its propositions, that
is, of its ideas - must rest on an analysis of the current and future
possibilities of the history of supplements as systems of supple-
ments. Grammatization, as the pursuit of exteriorization, is
thought, and must be thought as this retreat of the hand in which
proletarianization consists, and that comes after the retreat of the
foot that Leroi-Gourhan showed was the path enabling access to
the 'gramme as such', that is, to a certain epoch of writing that
corresponds to what I have here called the process of grammatiza-
tion, such that it constitutes the characteristic orthotheses of the
pla'y of tertiary retention through which the Western psycho-social
i I
Wanting to Believe
individuation process is constituted, and within which this tertiary
retention is concretely expressed as hypomnemata.
I am here' presuming that this Western individu-
process is finished and dead, but equally that this cata-
strophe opens the possibility of a doubly epokhal rec;loq.bling, that
is, of another epoch and of a wholly other thought of that of which
it would be an epoch. I have proposed that this possibility must
integrate techno-logical individuation with psycho-social individu-
ation, including in its becoming-hyper-diachronic structure, that
is, in its chronic instability, as the obsolescence induced by per-
manent innovation., I have equally proposed that capitalism must
become the support of this individuation.
I add here that it is in the retreqt of the hand that it is a matter
of inscribing what must be made to happen, and that this 'must'
[if (aut] must be the necessary (de}fault of the hand [le defaut qu'il
(aut de Ia main], that is, the very fact that the hand is lacking or
deficient [fait defaut]. But if the hand withdraws as an organ of
doing, then it must DO without the hand; and this is only possible
by rethinking anew what will have been the place of the hand in
logos - that is, by practice, notably the practice of
hypomnemata. '
10. Wanting to be [vouloir] and the power to be
[pouvoir] one's wound: that is, one's defect [defaut],
that is, one's desire - or, the supplementarity
of the soul as susceptibility
The question of practice was scarcely at the heart of thinking when
the idea of the rept,Iblican school was developed. This idea belonged
to an age for which grammatization was a way of accessing pre-
individual funds. Its development depended on an enormous
public investment that, alone, permitted the constitution of indus-
trial democracies, which then flourished, and all of which have
since become decadent. It is to the redefinition of modes of access
to pre-individual funds - such that these modes would not be
submitted to the imperatives of subsistence, but would con-
ceived as the intensification of existence, that is, of knowledge (it
is a matter of savoir vivre and savoir faire) -that the e11tire politi-
Wanting to Believe 159
cal project of the future must devote itself as a priority. And this
must be the project of a reborn [renaissante] Europe, and of a
'new belief' in Europe and within Europe, a project with which
Nietzsche, who did not know America, was already occupied.
And here, the question is not of knowing if there is a chance
for singularity, but of posing that what there is has a chance only
if there is singularity. There is clearly a chance for singularity. It
is clearly this chance. The question is that of seizing it: of knowing
how to seize it, and how to see it, and how to fashion it in order
for it to be seized, or to seize it through the fact of fashioning it
and in order to make it visible - in brief, to invent it; it is a matter
of seizing the chance, as improbable and indeterminate, unbeliev-
able and yet believed, through the hand, as the prehensile organ
that it remains, in particular to be able to lend itself and give itself
the hand, or through that which will have succeeded it in the
history of the supplement and as process of grammatization. This
is what one calls a political question.
The question of singularity is not a 'supplementary' question,
ih the sense of the question of the soul as a supplement, but the
question of the supplementarity of the soul as such, insofar as the
soul is that which considers the as such, and which considers itself
as such, as, in other words, the noetic soul. This is to say that one
must think it not only in terms of a logic of the supplement, but
ih terms of the historicity of a supplement that makes objects, and
that has always made the objects of combat. But the conduct of
such combat presupposes an analysis and a critique of the state
of supplementarity that is not, no more than is the law, a fact
fallen from the sky, but is rather, today at least, a construction
of capitalism, and, one could add, of capitalism understood as
metaphysics, itself understood as the power of the head over
the body and its spaces, territories, regions, and all that which,
mortal, contingent, and accidental, has been opposed, since Plato,
to the immortality of the soul, as the sensible is opposed to the
Singularity is the heart of the socio-in,dustrial machinery insofar
as it constitutes the object of all libido, which, in its turn, consti-
tutes all energy for production as it does all desire for 'consump-
tion' ['consommation'], but also, to speak like Bataille, of
and especially, of that which raises and erects

160 Wanting to Believe
everything towards the plane of consistence. Now, this singularity
of the object of desire is inscribed in an organology that demands
study, and that shows that the bodily organs of desire never stop
defunctionalizing a11d themselves - in the func-
tion of becoming supplemental: from the sense of smell evoked
time and again by Freud, to the foot that so interested the Greeks
as well as Njetzsche, and to the hand that today withdraws itself.
As for this question of the retreat of the hand, like that of the
foot but unlike the sense of smell, it is a question of motricity
(even if the sense of smell was originally constituted as a sense of
orientation and thus as an organ of motricity, if not a motor organ
strictly speaking): movement is the meaning of the accidental, and
this is what one must think through a general organology.
If we cannot know how singularity can be produced, we do
know that the psycho-social individuation process can only be
pursued as the production of such singularity. Consequently, one
must invent the future to be able to predict it, and it is less a matter
of knowing how singularity can be produced than of producing
it, in fact and in law, by inventing it: practising it, experimenting
with it, and also prescribing it. Singularity, which is also called
idios, is first of all a wound. It is a wound of the flesh that forms
a defect [qui se fait defaut]. But one that is necessary.
Joe Bousquet was shot in the lower back on 27 May 1918, and
he never again raised himself up: he finished his life bedridden.
And yet he did, nevertheless, raise himself: that is, he became a
writer, and he wrote his wound, and he wrote that he wanted to
be his wound and that he had the power to be his wound - that
is, his accident, his event (as Deleuze put it), but this means here
his defect [defaut]:
He apprehends the wound that he bears deep within body in
its eternal truth as a pure event. To the extent that events are actu-
alized in us, they wait for us and invite us in. They signal us: 'My
wound existed before me. I am born to incarnate it.' It is a question
of attaining this will that the event creates in us; of becoming the
quasi-cause of what is produced within us, the Operator; of pro-
ducing surfaces and linings in which the event is reflected, finds
itself again as incorporeal and manifests in us the neutral splendour
which. it possesses in itself in its impersonal and pre-individual
nature, beyond the general and the particular, the collective and
Wanting to Believe 161
t.he private. It is a question of becoming a citizen of the world.
'Everything was in order with the events of my life before I made
them mine; to live them is to find myself tempted to become their
equal, as if they had to get from me only that which they have that
is best and most perfect.'
This will- which for the writer and poet Joe Bousquet is that of
a practice and power of writing, and first of all as power over
oneself, but which is also the power of an impotence and of the
impossible itself- this will is not that of the subject, of metaphys-
ics and of mastery, but is rather a matter of being inhabited by
the impersonality of a pre-individuality. It is a matter here of
thinking according to another figure of the will, which would not
be that of the plenitude of the subject, that is, of its originarity,
but, on tbe contrary, of the subject's (de)fault of origin (and which
requires that Stoic quasi-causality that constitutes the basis of the
Logic of Sense
): the fact, precisely, that its origin causes its defect
[son origine lui fait defaut], and it is the necessity of this defect as
its origin, its source, its provenance, to which it must respond -
and in which it must believe. My wound, to which I respond, to
which I want to respond: I want my defects, I want to be my
defects- that is, my idioms: my shibboleth.
11. The chicken and the egg
To combat is to strike a blow [porter un coup]. A blow is always
a blow of the hand [un coup de main], and in French this is under-
stood in two opposed ways [as an attack, but also as having the
knack of something - trans.], two ways that I believe must be
composed. Such would be a thought of the hand, or a thought
with or by the hands, held by the hand, and as an archi-writing
understood as an archi-hand or the flesh of all supplement, includ-
ing and especially as the tongue [langue]: even beyond the hand;
and what circulates around the circuit of desire are the cries that
all this occasions in the form of exclamations, exclamations ini-
tially wielded by the hand as the representative of the whole body,
including the tongue - the slightest gesture already exclaims. The
hand is that which gives blows and, as strange as this may appear,
that which, insofar as it is a part of the body from which it would
. I
: i
162 Wanting to Believe
not know how to separate itself, receives them in making them,
eventually in sublime forms, and always in a dif{erance. The dif-
{erance of a violence. The hand having withdrawn remains nev-
ertheless the flesh that desires to desire - and that calls forth the
will that wants to want, and wants to be able to believe, and to
be able to want to believe. But one must, then, before anything
else and without condition, want to believe -like Jefferson decid-
ing to sign, even if it means losing his head.
Otherwise [faute de quoi, failing which], one would want to
see the chicken in order to believe in the egg.
The egg is a fact.
It must be made.
At Speloncato, Haute-Corse, Rio de Janeiro and Paraty, Brazil,
Epineuil-le-Fleuriel, Cher, pays du Grand Meaulnes,
between the months of July and August 2004
Notes and References
Quotations (p. vi)
1 First paragraphs from Paul Valery, 'Freedom of the Mind', The
Outlook for Intelligence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1962), p. 186; final paragraph from Valery, 'Our Destiny and
Literature', ibid., p. 167.
2 Cited in Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1990), p. 148.
Chapter 1 Decadence
1 Paul Valery, 'Freedom of the Mind', The Outlook for Intelligence,
p. 190.
2 Jacques Benigne Bossuet, Pensees detachees, in Oeuvres completes,
vol. 2 (Besan<;on: Outhenin-Chalandre, 1836), p. 382.
3 When I speak of psychic and collective individuation, it is in the
sense described by Gilbert Simondon in L'Individuation psychique
et collective (Paris: Aubier, 2007), but to which I have added my
own aqalyses, in particular in 'To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us:
From September 11 to April 2l', in Acting Out (Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 2009), and in De Ia n#sere symbolique
1. L'epoque hyperindustrielle (Paris: Galilee, 2004), and which I am
obliged to cite once again, for the reader unfamiliar with these
works: 'I am not an I other than to the extent that I am part of
a we. An I and a we are processes of individuation. As such, as
' I
164 Notes to page 1
processes of individuation, the I and the we have a history. This
is not merely to say that each we is a different history; it contains
the additional sense that the conditions of the individuation of
the we, throughout the course of human history, transform them-
selves' (Acting Out, p. 40). 'Simondon, in L'Individuation psychique
et collective, shows that for the I to individuate itself, my individu-
ation must participate in the process of collective individuation,
that is, in the individuation of a we where, insofar as I am an I, I
have always already found myself inscribed. I do not exist other
than in a group: my individuation is the individuation of my group
- with which nevertheless I am not confounded, and, moreover, I
may belong to several groups, which may be in disharmony' (ibid.,
p. 66).
In Le temps du cinema I have proposed that:
1. The I, as a psychic individual, can only be thought insofar as it belongs
to a we, which is a collective individual: the I constitutes itself in
adopting a collective history, which it inherits, and in which is recog-
nized a plurality of Is.
2. This heritage is an adoption, in the sense that I can perfectly well, as
the grandson of a German immigrant, recognize myself in a past which
has not been that of my ancestors, and which I can nevertheless make
mine; this process of adoption is thus structurally factical.
3. An I is essentially a process and not a state, and this process is an
in-dividuation (it is the process of psychic individuation) insofar as it
tends to become one, that is, in-divisible.
4. This tendency never realizes itself, because it encounters a counter-
tendency, with which it forms a metastable equilibrium - and it is
necessary here to underline that the Freudian theory of drives is sin-
gularly close to this conception of the dynamic of individuation, but
so too is the thought of Empedocles, and of Nietzsche.
5. A we is equally such a process (it is the process of collective individu-
ation), the individuation of an I being always inscribed in that of a
we, but, inversely, the individuation of the we only accomplishes itself
through these Is of which, polemically, it is composed.
6. What ties the I to the we in this individuation is a pre-individual
milieu, which has positive conditions of effectivity, related to what I
have called retentional apparatuses. These retentional apparatuses are
supported by the technical milieu, which is -the condition of the
encounter between the I and the we: the individuation of I and of we
is equally in a the individuation of a technical system (this is
what Simondon, strangely, failed to see).
Notes to pages 2-7 165
7. The technical system is an overarching system (dispositif) which
plays a specific role (and into which each object is taken: a technical
object only exists insofar as it can be arranged within such a system,
and in relation to other technical objects - what Simondon calls
the 'technical ensemble'): the gun and, more generally, the techni-
cal becoming with which it forms a system, are, for example, and
according to Foucault, the of constituting a disciplinary
8. The technical system is also that which supports the possibility of
constituting retentional apparatuses, issuing from processes of gram-
matization, which deploys itself at the heart of the process
of the individuation of the technical system. And these retentional
apparatuses are what condition the arrangements between the indi-
viduation of the I and the individuation of the we in the one process
of psychic, collective, and technical individuation (where grammatiza-
tion is a su.b-system of the technical), which then relates the three
branches, each branch dividing itself into processual sub-ensembles
(for example, the technical system, in individuating itself individually,
also individuates its mnemo-technical or mnemo-technological
systems). (De Ia misere symbolique 1, pp. 105-7)
4 Edmund Husser!, The Crisis of European Sciences (Evanston, IL:
Northwestern University Press, 1970).
5 These discourses principally concern the law, global political organi-
zations, the nature of relations and of international or transnational
regulations, etc.
6 And that certain people therefore qualify with the term 'hypermod-
ern', although in doing so the concepts of 'postmodernity' are
thereby led into a trap, and for an essential reason, to which I will
return in the next chapter, but which nevertheless does not com-
pletely invalidate Lyotard's analysis.
7 This ideology, which is not explicitly referred to in the law of com-
petition, but which is nevertheless the underlying spirit of the
Commission's 'directives', is a poorly digested form- an ideologiza-
tion - of something that, within economics, and ever since Walras
advanced the theory of general equilibrium, has remained contro-
versial, even among the neo-Walrasians themselves.
8 Pierre Leveque and Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Cleisthenes the Athenian:
An Essay on the Representation of Space and Time in Greek Political
Thought from the End of the Sixth Century to the Death of Plato
(Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1996).
9 Stiegler, Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation (Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 2009).
' .,
166 Notes to pages 7-11
10 E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley, CA, and
London: University of California Press, 1951), pp. 207.:...24.
11 Cited by Herbert I. Schiller in 'Vers un nouveau siecle d'imperialisme
americain', Le Monde diplomatique, August 1998: 'Time Warner
and Disney-ABC Capital Cities, two conglomerates whose turnover
exceeds $20 biJlion each, producing film, television programs,
books, magazines, discs, and extending their activities to the distri-
bution channels for these products: cable networks, television net-
works, theme parks, etc. To have an idea of the sums in play, we
can take the example of the Star Wars trilogy. Beyond the box office,
which procured $1.3 billion dollars, the toys and the games brought
in $1.2 billion; videocassettes, $5 00 million; CD-R 0 MS and video-
games, $300 million; clothes and accessories, $300 million; and
books and comic strips, $300 million more. This is in total $4
billion dollars in profit! In the same manner, some dozens of infor-
mation giants (material and logical) immersed the American and
global market with their products. Cultural production becomes an
integral part of production in genera,l, and the political economy of
culture - of the workplace as of consumption - henceforth imposes
itself as a crucial domain of research and analysis.'
12 The US Federal Communications Commission.
13 In fact, the recommendation of the FCC indicated to broadcasters
that the objective was the year 2003, 2006 being the outer limit.
This performative act has effectively and suddenly incited all the
stations to re-equip themselves, thereby 'boosting' the American
audiovisual digital economy, which is only just emerging.
14 Cf., Bertrand Gille, 'Introduction', Histoire des techniques (Paris:
Gallimard, 1978), and my commentary in Technics and Time, 1:
The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
1998), ch. 1.
15 Cf., Stiegler, ibid., and Technics and Time, 2 : Disorientation. Here
I take the word 'epochal' in the sense of interruption and of putting
in suspense, and of the opening of a new epoch. I have tried to show
in Technics and Time 1 and 2: (1) that technical becoming must be
thought through the concept of the technical system; (2) that there
is no human society which is not constituted by a technical system;
(3) that a technical system is traversed by evolutionary tendencies
which, when they concretely express themselves, induce a change
of the technical s y ~ t e m ; (4) that such il change necessitates adjust-
ments with the other systems constituting society; (5) that these
adjustments constitute a suspension and a re-elaboration of the
socio-ethnic programmes which form the unity of the social body;
Notes to pages 11-14 167
( 6) that this re-elaboration is a selection amongst possibilities,
effected across retentional systems, themselves constituted by
mnemo-techniques or mnemo-technologies, the becoming of which
is tied to that of the technical system, and the appropriation of
which permits the elaboration of selection criteria constituting a
motive, that is, a characteristic reason and sense of an epoch of
spirit, that is, a characteristic stage of psychic and collective indi-
viduation. On these points, cf., Technics and Time, 1, p. 231,
Technics and Time, 2, pp. 60-2, and Technics and Time, 3: Cinematic
Time and the Question of Malaise (Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2011), pp. 6-7.
16 Originally published in 2003; translated into English as 'To Love,
to Love Me, to Love Us: From September 11 to April 21 ', in
Acting Out.
17 'To Love, to Love Me, to Love Us: From September 11 to April21',
in Acting Out.
18 Samuel Huntington, with motives which are certainly not mine, but
which illustrate the extreme danger of the present time, writes that
'consumerism, not militarism is the threat to American strength';
cited by Jean-Claude Casanova and Pascal Gauchon in 'Etats-Unis.
La puissance economique', Encyclopedia Universalis (originally
from Samuel P. Huntington, 'The U.S. - Decline or Renewal?',
Foreign Affairs 6712 (winter 1988/89): 88).
19 And nothing would be more frightening than a biotechnological
consumerist society. That is why it is not sufficient to condemn the
obscurantism that opposes research in the sphere of the living. It is
not only necessary to offer. a critique of the technological becoming
of biology, and, more generally, the technoscientific becoming of
science, and of drawing consequences from this - more than that,
in this sphere more than in any other, it is necessary to affirm the
incompatibility of today's dominant consumerism with scientific
developments in the sphere of life. It is thus that, today, the question
of biopower is practically posed.
20 In the co-edition with Le Monde, 2-3 May 2004. (Actually, the
article, by Alan Riding, was published in the New York Times on
26 April 2004.)
21 Care is, for both the Greeks and the Romans, that which constitutes
the excellence of the beings which we are. This is the Care which,
in a fable told by Herder, created Homo- a fable retold by Heidegger,
in his existential analysis of Sorgen. Now, Care takes here (in this
Roman mythology) the role of Epimetheus, and this is why it must
be translated into Greek as elpis, that is, at once, hope, expectation,
168 Notes to pages 14-21
and fear - in spite of the fact that Heidegger utterly neglected this
point. I have developed these questions in Technics and Time, 1.
22 Similarly, basketball shoes (remembering that basketballers are
those heroes of the American ghettos, then of the European suburbs)
have become luxury items [luxe dorees], in some way Dior-ized
[diorisees]. And I was once asked to participate in a strange debate,
where men shod with such luxurious sneakers denounced the
becoming-adolescent of the cinematic public and complained
(despite being ensconced in their of seeing in this the cause
of the heralded disappearance of arthouse cinema- the head being
ignorant here, as so often, of its feet, in spite of the important role
of the feet (and of lameness) in the history of Western culture, as
insisted by Nicole Loraux, and in spite of the famous statement by
Leroi-Gourhan: 'everything begins with the feet'.
23 Through his project of a general mediology, Regis Debray opened
the question of technologies of belief (or rather of what he calls, in
wishing to establish distance, the 'make-believe'). I have myself
developed this theme, firstly in 'Fidelity at the Limits of
Deconstruction', in Tom Cohen (ed.), jacques Derrida and the
Humanities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001). I have
also written on the question of the make-believe and its relation to
belief - which is not the same question, even if the two questions
are inseparable - in 'La croyance de Regis De bray', Le De bat 85
(1995). Behind these problems remains the immense stake of
knowing how an analysis of belief can or cannot lead toWards the
rearticulation of political belief, because it is unimaginable that
politics could be possible without 'belief - this, at least, is the thesis
I defend. And I have explained in De Ia misere symbolique 1 that
an analysis of psychosocial individuation, which is the only frame-
work within which an analysis of belief is possible, as well as an
analysis of the technologies of the make-believe, could not be other
than itself a pursuit of this individuation, and therefore a political
affirmation, and therefore a political belief.
24 No more than any consistent and sincere statement - as Jacques
Derrida shows in 'Faith and Knowledge', in Gil Anidjar (ed.), Acts
of Religion (New York and London: Routledge, 2002).
25 IRCAM is at present working on the concept of a high-fidelity
channel called 'semantique', with many European partners, within
the framework of the project, 'Semantic Hi fi'.
26 'The Emerging American Imperium', Wall Street journal, August
1997, cited in Schiller, 'Towards a New Century of American
Notes to pages 22'"'-27 169
27 On this point, as on other questions tackled here, cf., Stiegler,
Nicolas Donin et al., Les Revolutions industrielles de Ia musique
(Paris: Fayard, Cahiers de mediologie et IRCAM, November 2004).
28 Cf., Les dossiers de l'audiovisuel 80 (INA, August 1998). The
obscurity of the European Union budget has prevented me from
updating these figures.
29 'If Britain is to integrate with Europe - as I believe it should -media
make better economic, commercial and social glue than a forced
convergence of currencies' (Rupert Murdoch, Papers and Documents,
Birmingham, 6-8 April 1998, p. 6).
30 Europe is a fiction: Europe does not exist. It was, is, and will be
first of all a belief, the belief in its own self-consistence. And this is
why the eternal question of knowing what Europe is, is not a good
question. A better question is to know what Europe becomes. What
exists is what has traversed Europe, to know how it was that the
process of Western psychic and collective individuation became
.European and has today become global. And this process of
European individuation will have individuated an idea, and an idea
does not exist, has not existed, and will never exist - as I will show
later in this work, an idea consists. Existence lies between subsist-
ence and consistence, and only a consistence, as idea, can animate
a process of individuation as that which becomes.
When I say that the process of individuation originating in
Europe has today become global, what I mean is that it has eman-
cipated itself from its own continental territoriality. But this does
not mean that it has unified itself; nor does it mean that European
individuation is condemned to disappear. But it will continue to
become only on the condition that it finds ways of intensifying its
singularity through its participation in a process of individuation
that has become planetary.
31 And, as such, as a cinema, as the Americans have so well
32 And posed here is a genuine strategic question about the develop-
ment of a European policy of free software. But this is only possible
within a much more global policy in relation to cognitive technolo-
gies and cultural technologies, which together constitute what I call
here the technologies of spirit.
33 Cf., on this subject, Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access: How the
Shift from Ownership to Access is Transforming Modern Life (New
York: Penguin Putnam, 2000).
34 Andre Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech (Cambridge, MA, and
London: MIT Press, 1993), p. 360, translation modified.
' I
170 Notes to pages 28-29
35 Jeremy Rifkin, The Age of Access, pp. 157-8.
36 Leroi-Gourhan, Gesture and Speech, pp. 360-1.
37 On 15 July 2004, Le Monde published an article concerning a study
by the IRI Institute that investigated <1 fall in the turnover of mass
consumer products, an article which had for a title and subtitle:
'Distribution is helpless in the face of "counter-consumers". For the
first time in ten years, the sales of proqucts of mass production have
gone down, even though they have risen from 3-4 per cent per year
for the last ten years. Among the reasons given is the rejection of
mass consumption by a certain category of the population.' The
joint director general of IRI speaks of "rupture".
38 In this regard, a quite recent declaration by Patrick Le Lay, president
of the French TV channel TF-1, is of a confounding clarity. This
was reported by Le Monde, on 11-12 July 2004, under the title:
'Mr Le Lay: TF-1 sells "available brain time"'. 'Questioned, along
with other chiefs, in a work entitled Les Dirigeants face au change-
ment (editions du Huitieme Jour), the president of TF-1, Patrick Le
Lay, noted that "there are many ways of speaking about television.
But from a 'business' perspective, being reaJistic, the base, the job
of TF-1, is to help Coca-Cola, for example, sell its product." And
he went on: for "an advertisement to be perceived, it is necessary
that the brain of the tele-spectator be available. Our programmes
are there in order to ma\<e this available, that is, to divert it, and to
relax it, to prepare it between two ads. What we sell to Coca-Cola
is available brain time." "Nothing is more difficult," he continues,
"than to obtain this availability." '
In Le Monde diplomatique, 'The Time of Con-Games [Le temps
des attrape-nigauds]' (August 2000), I wrote that 'what the pro-
gramme industries sell are not programmes, but audiences for adver-
tisements. The programmes only serve to attract consciousQesses to
be sold. And in this market an hour of consciousness is not worth
very much. Imagine a nationwide channel has an audience of 15
million viewers between 7:50 and 8:50p.m., and garners during this
hour a net advertising revenue of 3 million francs. In that case the
consciousness to which it addresses itself is worth 20 centimes per
hour in the market for audiences.' I have attempted to theorize this
becoming-commodity of the time of consciousness, which I call here
the proletarianization of the consumer, from questions deriving from
Kant and Husser!, in Technics and Time, 3, then in 'To Love, to
Love Me, to Love Us,' as a process of massification of conscious
secondary retentions so that it constitutes traces which organize and
individQate the primordial narcissism of which the brain is, in effect,
Notes to page 32 171
the seat, as the organ of mnesic traces (and I will return to this later,
inch. 3, 6): this is what is here precisely formulated by the presi-
dent of the leading French television channel. As for a deepening of
the relation between brain, retention, and protention in general, and
as for Freudian thinking in relation to this point, allow me to refer
to the conference I addressed at the Tate Modern in London on 13
May 2004, under the title, 'Desire and Knowledge', at the invitation
of Charlie Gere, available at: <
desire-and-knowledge-dead -seize-living>.
These questions are at the heart of contemporary individuation,
that is, also, at the heart of today's political and economic question.
One must no longer leave political representatives and those with
private and public responsibility in peace on this point. If genetically
modified organisms and so many other environmental and alimen-
tary questions are without doubt important, they are nevertheless
minor when compared to these questions of mental environment
and of legal and even legislatively favoured total brainwashing,
where it is very clearly a matter of intoxication on an extremely
large scale, leading to the planetary ruin of humanity and constitut-
ing a new form of totalitarianism. The responsibility of politicians
today is before anything else to put limits on this totalization, but
it is also the responsibility of each citizen to engage those politically
responsible for this path, which will require much courage and
In other words, Patrick Le Lay, who pretends to support con-
sumption, is in the process of destroying it (cf. ch. 1, n. 37), as mass
distribution is in the process of destroying production.
39 A recent example is the affair of Marie L., who feigned, on 11 July
2004, a racist and anti-Semitic attack against herself and her
baby. This terrible story calls for a long commentary, but that
would presuppose greater knowledge of the case than I possess.
Let's simply say that for me this incident is inscribed in a series:
symbolic, psychological and political misery; fantasies surround-
ing the monotheisms with their real and terrible difficulties; but
also social mimetism, that is, the herdishness and hastiness of
politicians, who take advantage of the susceptibility of citizens-
cum-consumers-of-politically-targeted-behaviour to having their
emotions captured and harnessed, thereby treating them as
audiences, audiences the 'attention' of which is sold by the mass
media to every kind of advertiser, salesman or spin doctor. In this
regard, the newspaper Liberation published an analysis of the 11
July incident, as well as a clear and courageous editorial by Antoine
172 Notes to pages 32-38
de Gaudemar, which was also a way of apologizing to its readers.
In another, more serious register, of which it is however impossible
not to think here, the New York Times recognized the errors it
committed and the responsibility it bore for the way in which it had
portrayed the" situation between Iraq and the USA since the begin-
ning of the crisis, which had by then become aconflict.
40 I speak of performativity, here, in the sense defined by John Austin:
a statement is performative to the extent that the mere expression
of the statement constitutes its enactment. The title of the work in
which this theory of linguistic acts is formulated is: How to Do
Things with Words.
Chapter 2 Belief and Politics
1 Michel Foucault, 'The Meshes of Power', in Jeremy W. Crampton
and Stuart Elden, Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and
Geography (Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2007), p. 158.
2 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power (New York: Vintage, 1967),
'Preface', 2.
3 Nietzsche, The Gay Science (New York: Vintage, 1974), 377.
4 What I call grammatization is the process by which all the fluxes
or flows [flux] through which symbolic (that is, also, existential)
acts are linked, can be discretized, formalized and reproduced. The
most well-known of these processes is the writing of language. It
was Sylvain Auroux who forged the term 'grammatization' in order
to describe this process:
According to Sylvain Auroux, the alphabet constitutes a process of gram-
matization (a becoming-letter of the sound of speech [Ia parole]) which
precedes all logic and all grammar, all science of language and all science
in general, which is the techno-logical condition (in the sense that it is
always already technical and logical) of all knowledge, and which begins
with its exteriorization. The third industrial revolution, which consists
in the spread of information technologies and the resulting redefinition
of knowledge, belongs to this process of grammatization - and, more
precisely, to the third technological revolution of grammatization, the
second being, according to the definition of Sylvain Auroux, the print
revolution [ ... ].
To grammatize means, according to Auroux, to discretize in order to
isolate the gramme, that is, those constitutive and finitely numbered ele-
ments that together form a system.
One must not confuse this [grammatization] with grammaticaliza-
tion: grammatization precedes grammatical theory. [ ... ] [T]he technical
practice of grammatization, connected to various utilitarian concerns,
Notes to page 39 173
largely precedes these theories, which it conditions and makes possible.
In brief, it is not the grammarians who invent grammatization, but rather
grammatization, as an essentially technical fact, which produces gram-
marians [ ... ].
In the history of the process of Western psychic and collective indivi-
duation, grammatization, as technical individuation, is a weapon for the
control of idioms, and, through them, of spirit, that is, of retentional
activities [ ... ]. Auroux gives the example of the grammar of Ma, which
according to Auroux was the first Chinese grammar, and which would
later succeed in projecting Latin grammar into Chinese.
This grammatical projection of 'extended Latin grammar', as he called
it, astonishingly close to what Jacques Derrida called mondialatinization,
is what has permitted the West [ ... ] to assure its domination of minds
[esprits], by controlling their symbols, that is, by imposing selection
criteria upon them in their own retentional systems. Grammatizatiop is
the production and discretization of structures (which weave together
these pre-individual milieus and transindividual organizations and which
support technical or mnemo-technical systems). (Stiegler, De Ia misere
symbolique 1, pp. 111-14)
But it is just as true that the mechanical reproduction of a human
gesture is a form of gratpmatization, just as is the algorithmic analy-
sis of an image or a soundwave. The grammatization of gesture is
what makes it possible to remove the existential dimension from it:
it is in this way that it constitutes a loss of individuation, as Simondon
described for the case of the worker who becomes the servant of the
machine. This is also concretely expressed in the assembly lines of
Henry Ford's factories and the Taylorian scientific organization of
labour. Equally, the genetic analysis of life can be conceived as a
discretization of the vital continuum related to a process of gram-
matization. It is in this sense that Jacques Derrida was able to
inscribe 'grammatology' (a concept which precedes the concept of
grammatization by twenty-six years) into the context of neo-Dar-
winism and molecular biology. The loss of individuation induced by
the grammatization of the living would clearly merit very complex
analyses. But this also concerns the fact that the relationship between
agriculture and the process of vital individuation presupposes
psychic and collective individuation, which Simondon analyses in
L'Individu et sa genese physico-biologique (Grenoble: Millon, 1995).
5 Ortho-graphy, that is, vocalic alphabetic writing, induces the textual
process of dif(erantial identification, that is, the identification of
written statements paradoxically results in their interpretability,
through a process of what Jacques Derrida has analysed as dif-
ferance. On these questions, cf., Technics and Time, 2, ch. 1: 'The
Orthographic Age'.

174 Notes to pages 41-60
6 This is what Marx opposes to the infrastructure: the infrastructure
is then the reality of the forces and processes of production that the
superstructure entirely occludes in proceeding from it as a derivative
7 I return to this point in ch. 3, 6, p. 111, and I have developed
these concepts of retention and protention on many occasions.
A summary can be found in Philosopher par accident (Paris: Galilee,
8 Cf., Stiegler, Technics and Time, 2.
9 On this point, cf., pp. 10-13.
10 Eventually making way for what one calls the mathematics of trust,
itself emerging from the theory of games. Guyonnet
and Gilles Le Cardinal have, for example, developed such formal-
isms at the Universite de Compiegne.
11 Regarding elpis, cf., eli. 3, 2, p. 100, and 6, p. 179, n. t5.
12 And this other thing constitutes, as such, what I have called tertiary
13 Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra (Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1961), 'Of the J-Iigher Man', 5, translation modified.
14 On this question, cf., the admirable analysis of Jean-Pierre Vernant,
'At Man's Table: Hesiod's Foundation Myth of Sacrifice', in Marcel
Detienne al)d Jean Pievve Vernant, The Cuisine of Sacrifice among
the Greeks (Chicago, IL, and London: University of Chicago Press,
15 Louis Aragon, II n'y a pas d'amour heureux, in La Diane fram;aise
(Paris: Seghers, 1946).
16 Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1983 ), p. 20.
17 As elaboration of a super-ego.
18 Cf., Barbara Stiegler, Nietzsche et Ia biologie (Paris: PUF, 2000).
19 Nietzsche, The Will to Power, 'Preface', 2.
20 Jacques Derrida, in particular, brings to light in exemplary fashion
the way in which metaphysics essentially consists in building oppo-
sitions which are in fact includeq within compositions 'older' than
21 Even if we must presuppose here that the appearance of a social
organization which may be defined as the constitution of an 'ethnic-
ity' - that is, of an idiomatic culture distinct Jrom other cultures
with which it exchanges- is a late stage of this process, which covers
two or three million years.
22 This is the object of what I call, in De Ia misere symbolique 1, a
general organology.
Notes to pages 62-67 175
23 Certainly, this worker [ouvrier] only works to a limited extent: his
works (oeuvres) are a matter of labour [travail] in the sense that they
are dictated by need, by the necessity of the necessitous. Submitted
to the yoke of ponos, the labourer [travailleur] only works [ouvre]
the world - that is, inscribes his individuation - with his hands, in
submitting to the conditions of the productive sphere, that is, in
handling tools and instruments of work, isolated from those clerics
who, free from these conditions, work [oeuvrent] and labour [tra-
vaillent] in the symbolic domain, mentally handling signs which
don't appear to them as technics, but as forms and figures of spirit
- even though the free activity of the spirit always passes through a
manipulation of signs which alone makes possible mnemo-tech-
niques, thereby establishing them as what I call tertiary retentions.
24 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
(London: Unwin, 1930), p. 72.
25 'In agriculture, for instance [ ... ] the interest of the employer in a
speeding up of harvesting increases with the increase of the results
and the intensity of the work. [ ... ] However, [ ... ] raising the piece-
rates has often had the result that not more but less has been
accomplished in the same time, because the worker reacted to the
increase not-by increasing but by decreasing the amount of his work.
A man, for instance, who at the rate of 1 mark per acre mowed 21!z
acres per day and earned 21!z marks, when the rate was raised to
1.25 marks per acre mowed, not 3 acres, as he might easily have
done, thus earning 3. 7 5 marks, but only 2 acres, so that he could
still earn the 21!z marks to which he was accustomed. The opportu-
nity of earning more was less attractive than that of working less'
(ibid., pp. 59-60).
26 Ibid., p. 60.
27 Sylvain Auroux, who has insisted on the specificity of grammatiza-
tion in the age of print, and on the politics of spirit implemented
by Jesuits, by missionaries, and as an instrument of colonization,
has not analysed the religious stakes at the heart of Christianity. On
the other hand, this was the heart of the thesis elaborated by
Elizabeth Eisenstein in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980, new edn), a thesis
later contested by Roger Chartier.
28 Cf., ch. 3, 4, pp. 106-7.
29 Benjamin Franklin, cited by Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism, pp. 48-9. Bataille shows just why this calcu-
lability of time is properly impious in the epoch of nobles and
clerics: 'This would be to make time pay; and time, unlike space,
l 1
4 I
~ I
176 Notes to pages. 67-75
was said to be God's domain and not that of men' (Georges Bataille,
The Accursed Share, Volume 1: Consumption (New York: Zone
.Books, 1991), p.117).
30 'Nothing is cynically opposed to the spirit of religious sacri-
fice, which continued, prior to the Reformation, to justify an
immense unproductive consumption and the. idleness of all those
who had a free choice in life' (ibid., p. 126).
Benjamin Franklin, cited in Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the
Spirit of Capitalism, p. 49.
Franklin, cited ibid.
Ibid., p. 51.
Ibid., p. 53.
Ibid., p. 62.
Ibid., p. 60.
Ibid., p. 61.
'Now the peculiar modern Western form of capitalism has been, at
first sight, strongly influenced by the development of technical pos-
sibilities. Its rationality is today essentially dependent on the calcu-
lability of the most important technical factors. But this means
fundamentally that it is dependent on the peculiarities of modern
science, especially the natural sciences based on mathematics and
exact and rational experiment' (ibid., p. 24).
Weber, ibid., pp. 67-8.
Ibid., p. 69.
Ibid., pp. 69-70.
Ibid., p. 70.
Ibid., p. 72.
Ibid., p. 74.
Ibid., p. 81.
Michel Foucault, 'Self Writing', Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth
(London: Penguin, 1997), p. 207.
On this question, cf., Stiegler, Acting Out (Stanford, CA: Stanford
University Press, 2009), pp. 15-16.
Foucault, 'Self Writing', p. 208.
This is the name I give for alphabetic writing, for reasons I explain
in Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation (Stan{ord, CA: Stanford
University Press, 2009).
This concept of tertiary retention receives further explanation in ch.
3, 6. Any artificial object can constitute an object of memory, and
Notes to pages 76-87 177
I have called this process epiphylogenesis, thereby taking up the
thesis that Leroi-Gourhan develops at the end of Gesture and
Speech, where he proposes that technics is fundamentally the
appearance of a third memory. Nevertheless, tertiary retention is
not necessarily mnemo-technical. On the contrary, the appearance
of mnemo-techniques induces a new retentional life, which is the
beginning of grammatization, and of which the hypomnemata
described by Foucault are cases.
54 Foucault, 'Self Writing', p. 209.
55 Ibid.
56 'How I Became a Philosopher', in Acting Out, as also in Technics
and Time, 2.
57 Foucault, 'The Meshes of Power', p. 154.
58 Ibid., pp. 155-6.
59 Cf., en. 2, 1, pp. 38-9.
60 On these questions, Gilles Deleuze maintains a very traditional and
metaphysical conception, when, for example, he proposes that what
he names 'the diagram' precedes the technological factuality that
implements it, and even though he uses a word that immediately
calls upon a form of grammatization. More generally, the beautiful
analyses concerning the flux, the body, codes and territories in Anti-
Oedipus, ch. 3, 'Wild, barbaric, civilized', nevertheless lack the
question of hypomnesis and of mnemo-technologies, even though
they are presented as an interpretation of the Nietzschean question
of mnemo-technique. I will return to these questions in a work in
61 Foucault, 'Self Writing', p. 207.
62 Foucault, The Government of Self and Others (Basingstoke: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2010).
63 Foucault, 'The Meshes of Power', p. 158.
64 Ibid., p. 159
65 Ibid., p. 161.
66 Ibid.
67 Foucault, 'Self Writing', p. 209.
Ibid., pp. 210-11. 68
On me/ete as discipline of the self, cf., Stiegler, Acting Out, p. 20.
'In business circles, the new operative term is the "lifetime value"
(LTV) of the customer, the theoretical measure of how much a
human being is worth if every moment of his or her life were to be
commodified in one form or another in the commercial sphere. In
the new era, people purchase their very existence in small commer-
cial segments' (Rifkin, The Age of Access, pp. 7-8).
; r
, I
~ . I
178 Notes to pages 89-101
71 Marc Crepon, Nietzsche, !'art et la politique de l'avenir (Paris: PUF,
72 Paul Claudel. I owe this citation to Pierre Sauvanet: 'Du rythmique,
de l'esthetique au politique', at the colloquium La lutte pour
!'organisation du sensible, Cerisy-la"Salle, 29 May 2004.
73 Cf., ch. 3, 6.
74 'Changing from the perspectives of restricted economy to those of
general economy actually accomplishes a Copernican transforma-
tion: a reversal of thinking - and of ethics. If a part of wealth
(subject to a rough estimate) is doomed to destruction or at least to
unproductive use without any possible profit, it is logical, even
inescapable, to surrender commodities without return. Henceforth,
leaving aside pure and simple dissipation, analogous to the con-
struction of the Pyramids, the possibility of pursuing growth is itself
subordinated to giving: the industrial development of the entire
world demands of Americans that they lucidly grasp the necessity,
for an economy such as theirs, of having a margin of profitless
operations. An immense industrial network cannot be managed in
the same way that one changes a tire ... It expresses a circuit of
cosmic energy on which it depends, which it cannot limit, and
whose laws it cannot ignore without consequences. Woe to those
who, to the very end, insist on regulating the movement that exceeds
them with the narrow mind of the mechanic who changes a tire'
(Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, Volume 1: Consumption
(New York: Zone Books, 1991), pp. 25-6). We note that this text
was written in 1949.
Chapter 3 The Otium o the People
1 Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism
(London and New York: Verso, 2005), pp. xliii, 8, 9 and 13.
2 Fernand Braudel, Afterthoughts on Material Civilization and
Capitalism (Baltimore, MD, and'London: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1977), p. 7.
3 On this point, cf., Stiegler, 'Allegorie de la fourmiliere. La perte
d'individuation a l'age hyperindustriel', De la misere symbolique 1,
as well as Technics and Time, 2, and La Technique et le Temps 4
and 5, both yet to appear.
4 Valery, 'Freedom of the Mind', The Outlook for Intelligence, p. 190.
5 Valery, 'Our Destiny and Literature', The Outlook for Intelligence,
p. 167.
Notes to pages 102-115 179
6 Jean-Fran<;:ois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on
Knowledge (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press,
1984), p. 3.
7 'What is called capital is grounded in the principle that money is
nothing other than time placed in reserve, available', Lyotard, 'Time
Today', The Inhuman (Cambridge: Polity, 1991), p. 66.
8 Daniel Bensai"d, Marx l'intempestif (Paris: Fayard, 1995), p. 90.
9 Cf., ch. 2, 13, p. 87, and De la misere symbolique 1, pp. 20
and 129.
10 Sigmund Freud, 'Civilization and Its Discontents', in The Standard
Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, vol. 21 (London:
Hogarth Press, 1961), pp. 91-2.
11 Ibid., p. 115.
12 This is what I try to show in Technics and Time, 3.
13 Article 1, section 8 of the American Constitution: 'The Congress
shall have Power[ ... ] to promote the Progress of Science and useful
Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the
exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries ... '
14 'Producing' retentions therefore means, here, the same thing as
when we say in French that a judge produces evidence.
15 And epimetheia presupposes prometheia, that is, the hypomnesic
constitution of retentional possibilities (and anamnesic possibilities,
but in the Proustian rather than Platonic sense) as a play of tertiary
retentions. Cf., Technics and Time, 1.
16 Cf., ch. 3, n. 20. I will return to this theme in various works yet to
17 Rare has become the politician who would not indulge in similar
exercises, which induce the feeling of 'the shame of being human'.
This fact must be placed at the heart of political thought, as the
example of what must at any price be combated and denounced, as
what we must oppose, and with which we must not compose. But
who, amongst the 'intellectuals', accepting the 'passage to the tele',
has not in some way sacrificed themselves to this nasty little game?
Even Pierre Bourdieu delivers himself over to this at the very moment
he believes himself to be denouncing it; I have tried to show why
in Technics and Time, 3.
18 It is without doubt in order to distinguish the expenditure without
reserve in which the sacrifice of consumption consists that Bataille
forges the word consumation.
19 I have developed this point in a conference at the Tate Modern in
London. Cf., ch. 1, n. 38. As for the question of the accident, I
summarize this in Philosopher par accident.

180 Notes to pages 117-132
20 And through which they metastabilize and configure what I call
archi-retentions and archi-protentions. These constitute a pre-indi-
vidual archi-fund which is the result of that which appears from
Porphyry to constitute the question of universals: styles of pro-
nouncements on archi-retentions and archi-protentions characterize
onto-theological styles.
21 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago, IL, and London:
University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 7.
22 Ibid.
23 Ibid., p. 3.
24 Ibid., p. 9.
25 Ibid., p. 12.
26 Ibid., p. 14, n. 10.
27 Cf., ibid., pp. 15-16.
28 Ibid., p. 15.
29 Ibid., pp. 16-17.
Chapter 4 Wanting to Believe
1 Aristotle, On the Soul, 433a18-20.
2 Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore, MD, and London:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998, corrected edn), p. 84.
J Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1990), p. 148.
4 This text is a modified version of a speech that I delivered on 18
August 2004 at the Maison de France in Rio de Janeiro, at the
invitation of Evando Nascimento, in the presence and in honour of
Jacques Derrida, and in the framework of a colloquium which was
dedicated to him, Penser a questoes de politica, etica
e estetica, organized by the Universidade Federal De Juiz De Fora.
5 I adopt the Greek alphabet for this word, which is written in Roman
characters as nous, so as to avoid confusion with the French first-
person plural nous, of which we make great use in the problematic,
which is here mine, as it is in many other of my works, of psychic
and collective individuation, which is always constituted as the
transductive relation between an I and a we, but also a he/it and
sometimes a He (on this point, cf., Acting Out, pp. 66-71). It is,
on the other hand, as fortuitous as it is striking that the French
pronunciation of Greek nous is homonymous with the nous of
individuation: is not spirit precisely that which, as we, that is, as
first-person plural without remainder, cannot be inspected and
appropriated by a people, a land, a tradition, a singularity, and
Notes to pages 132-133 181
which, by this fact, can only be an existing occurrence of a consist-
ence which is always for it in excess and, just as much, which finds
itself thus condemned to idiocy, and, in some way, to the clumsiness
of idiom which is never far from being stupid, and stupidly regres-
sive, even though it alone can provide by default access to the
spiritual act, to this excess that is spirit and to that which I will here
call noeticity in action? On this subject, I think too of Kafka, of his
relation to Yiddish and to German, and to the very beautiful paper
that Marc Crepon dedicated to him, published as a book under the
title Langues sans demeure (Paris: Galilee, 2005).
6 Cf., Stiegler, De Ia misere symbolique, 1.
7 Aristotle, On the Soul, 426b, where, apropos to krinon, Aristotle
writes: 'It is not possible [ ... ] to judge by the different senses that
the sweet differs from the white. Rather it must be to some single
thing that they are manifest. Otherwise from the mere fact that I
see one thing and you see one thing it would be obvious that those
things were not the same, whereas it can only be a single thing that
asserts their difference. Sweetness, then, being a different thing from
whiteness, it is the same single thing that asserts (legei) them to be
so, and as it asserts so it both thinks (noei) and feels (aisthanetai)
this.' (Translation slightly modified.) It is this concrescence, to take
a word from Whitehead, of legei, noei and aisthanetai, that I des-
ignate as becoming-symbolic, and that I characterize below as excla-
mation. 'To feel' here translates aisthesei. But E. Barbotin wants to
accredit the possibility of a common sense (the subtitle of the para-
graph introduced by him to the table of contents is 'Common sense
judges the senses and unifies knowledge'), which would be to make
sense, as his translation introduces it here, equivalent to krinon, that
is, to judgement, which he translates as 'judicative sense'. I propose,
myself, to translate aisthesei as 'feeling' and krinon as 'discernment'.
Because, in fact, what Aristotle says here is that a sense can only
feel through comparisons, while making differences, diapherei, and
in this it is as such logical, that is, logoic, taken in a legein, or in
other words a gathering, where it is constrained to lose the singular-
ity of the singular and to reduce it to the particularity of that which
it enunciates, legei. And nevertheless, this does not mean in any way
that there would be a 'common sense', which would necessarily be
a sixth sense, since Aristotle expressly says elsewhere (424b22) that
there is not a sixth sense. There is, on the contrary, a community
of senses which enunciate themselves in logos and which is what
makes the difference between the senses as singularities through
being last, that is, in disappearing through the enunciation. It is thus
I i
182 Notes to pages 134-147
equally that the soul is only in action intermittently - and these
intermittences are the passage of time, the fact that, in time, things
only appear to the extent that they disappear, and to the extent that
the significant becomes insignificant.
8 Martin Heidegger, Plato's Sophist (Bloomington and Indianapolis,
IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), p. 92.
9 Aristotle, Metaphysics A, 982b31.
10 Cf., Technics and Time 3, chs 1-3.
11 This theme is reprised in De Ia misere symbolique 2.
12 Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, Echographies of Television:
Filmed Interviews (Cambridge: Polity, 2002).
13 Ibid., pp. 80-1. My emphasis. Section in square brackets not
included in French quotation.
14 My emphasis.
15 The phrase is, 'regard sur le monde actuel', and the reference is to
Paul Valery's 1931 work, Regards sur le monde actuel, translated
as Reflections on the World Today (London: Thames & Hudson,
16 The missions that converted the American Indians to Christianity,
and which often prevented them from being massacred, came via
the conquest oftheir minds [esprits], and it was a matter of unifying
them in the Holy Spirit: this is what made possible the instruments
(grammars and printed dictionaries) of the second technological
revolution of grammatization, and opened the process of what
Jacques Derrida called mondialatinization, what Sylvain Auroux
studies as Extended Latin Grammar. In Brazil today, however, there
lives, under the immense statue of Christ the Redeemer which domi-
nates Rio at the height of 700 metres at Bao Vista, and which
appears to watch over all of Latin America, candomble and
macumba, a fact which offends Pentecostalists and other Protestant
sects deriving from North America, as Fernando and Chris Fragozo
explained to me at the foot of this Christ the Redeemer - supported
by the mountain like a Saint Christopher telluric.
17 My emphasis.
18 Cf., Stiegler, La Technique et le Temps 4. Symboles et diaboles
19 Franc;ois Furet and Jacques Ozouf, Lire et ecrire. L'alphabetisation
de Fran(:ais de Calvin a Jules Ferry (Paris: Minuit, 1977).
20 C(,ch. 1,n. 38.
21 This is what I today try to think in the sense of a general organol-
ogy that constitutes, at the same time, a genealogy of the sensible.
On these questions, cf., De Ia misere symbolique 1 and 2.
Notes to pages 150-162 183
22 We must here underline that, as a process of adoption, and pursuit
of grammatization, capitalism is a process of graft exposed to the
entire question of the auto-immunitary reaction such as it was
thoroughly explored by Jacques Derrida in his latter years.
23 This is what I will analyse in the final volume of La Technique et le
Temps, as constituting a situation which I call 'a transcendental'.
24 In De Ia misere symbolique 1, p. 95.
25 I am certainly thinking here of everything that requires thought in
Barbara Stiegler's work, Nietzsche et la critique de la chair: Dionysos,
Ariane, le Christ (Paris: PUF, 2005).
26 Paul Celan, 'Letter to Hans Bender', in Collected Prose (Manchester:
Carcanet Press, 1986), p. 26; cited by Marc Crepon in Terreur et
poesie (Paris: Galilee, 2004), pp. 101-2: 'Only truthful hands write
true poems. I cannot see any basic difference between a handshake
and a poem.'
2 7 On the question of the fiction of principle that is a we, cf., Derrida,
'Declarations of Independence', in Negotiations: Interventions and
Interviews: 1971-2001 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
2002), pp. 49-50, where it a question of Jefferson's signature on
the Declaration of Independence of the United States, and where
Jefferson speaks at the same time in the name of the people that are
nevertheless not constituted as a people other than through the
signature of this declaration, and which, therefore, fictions this
people in speaking in their name, but he is able and he wants (il
peut et il veut) this fiction in which he therefore believes, and in
which one sees the other face of this God in the name of which is
proclaimed trust in the dollar.
28 Cf., ch. 1, 5, p. 17.
29 Bataille, The Accursed Share, Volume 1.
30 Such is the project of the collection of studies assembled in De Ia
misere symbolique 1 and 2.
31 Deleuze, Logic of Sense, p. 148.
32 Ibid., pp. 142-7.
33 Derrida, 'Declarations of Independence', p. 48: 'You know what
scrutiny and exaJ;Ilination this letter, this literal Declaration in its
first state, underwent, how long it remained and deferred, undeliv-
ered, in sufferance between all those representative instances, and
with what suspense or suffering Jefferson paid for it. As if he had
secretly dreamed of signing all alone.'